Reprinted from New York Daily News
Coming to a pharmacy near you: The morning-after pill, now available to all females regardless of their age.
The controversial emergency contraceptive, sold over the counter as Plan B, was cleared for sale without age restrictions Friday by Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman.
The judge, in a harsh rebuke of the Obama administration, ordered the Food and Drug Administration to comply within 30 days.
Before the decision — described as “landmark” by one attorney — girls under the age of 17 needed a prescription to get Plan B. Now they can buy the contraceptive without one, and without parental consent.
While Korman’s ruling was a tough pill to swallow for some, others felt it was the right medicine in the eight-year debate over its availability.
“It’s not abortion,” said Doreen Diegman, 46, who says she’s taken the pill herself. “It should be accessible, especially to teenagers.”
Tracy Woodall, 42, was upset by word that buying Plan B could become as easy as purchasing a toothbrush for preteens.
“That’s horrible!” said Woodall, the mother of a 12-year-old girl. “That’s going to bring out a whole lot of chaos and promiscuous children. It’s just encouraging sex for our young people.”
Mom Beatrice Vagra, 45, thought age 16 was an appropriate cutoff for buying the pill.
“I just think under 16 is too young to make such a decision by themselves,” said Vagra. “But for any woman — it’s their body, it’s their choice.”
The judge, in a pointed 59-page decision, ripped U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for her 2011 decision to keep the age limit at 17.
Her position was “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent,” Korman wrote.
Sebelius expressed concern that some 11-year-old girls, while capable of becoming pregnant, should not have unfettered access to the pills at such a young age.
President Obama, involving his own two daughters, supported her position — aggravating many women’s groups and running afoul of Korman.
“This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds,” said Korman. “The number of 11-year-olds using these (morning-after) drugs is likely to be minuscule.”
The judge added that the pill posed no health threat to even its youngest potential users: “These emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over the counter.”
The Justice Department offered no immediate word on whether Korman’s ruling would be appealed.
“We are reviewing the decision and evaluating the government’s options,” said Justice attorney F. Franklin Amanat.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the judge’s ruling had not changed the President’s position.
“The President supported that decision after (Sebelius) made it, and he supports that decision today,” said Carney. “He believes it was the right common sense approach to this issue.”
NARAL Pro-Choice New York, a reproductive rights group, praised the new ruling.
“This is a real triumph for women and men of all ages,” the group said in a statement. “With (Plan B) available on the pharmacy shelf, this safe, reliable form of contraception will be accessible when it is most needed.”
Andrea Costello, a lawyer with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said the ruling was a huge breakthrough.
“This is a landmark decision in terms of providing women and girls in the United States access to a safe and effective form of birth control,” she said.
The case dates back to 2005, when the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The legal challenge came after the Bush administration denied women of all ages over-the-counter access to Plan B. The FDA later permitted sale of the pills to women 18 and older.
In 2009, Korman ruled that 17-year-olds should be able to get the morning-after pill without a prescription — and ordered the feds to consider expanding access to women of all ages.
The FDA agreed, only to have Sebelius overrule their choice.
Margaret Bowen, 68, of Sunnyside, has no children — but she held a strong opinion about judge’s ruling.
“They’re going to pay for taking human life, all of them,” she said. “The kids growing up now have no morals. They jump into bed with anybody.”