The Fight to Make the Morning-After Pill Readily Available for All Women and Girls

Tummino v. Hamburg

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Photo: Jenny Brown / National Women's Liberation


Women's Rights

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The basic principle that women must have control over their own bodies has been under constant attack, but it just scored a landmark victory in the battle for access to emergency contraception.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund is representing plaintiffs challenging the government’s outrageous, unscientific, and politically motivated restrictions on access to emergency contraception. The PCJF has been in the courts and partnering with activists in the streets to aggressively make the Morning-After Pill available without restriction, while the government fought and delayed every step of the way.

After a decade-long battle to eliminate all restrictions on the Morning-After Pill, the government’s baseless obstruction to access has been defeated in federal litigation. The pill will be now be made available over the counter without identification or prescription requirements.

This victory did not come easily. Under both the Obama and Bush administrations, the Food and Drug Administration refused to remove unlawful restrictions on access to the Morning-After Pill that were never supported by scientific evidence. The Obama White House even intervened with an election-year effort to keep the contraceptive from going over-the-counter. After a long battle, and repeatedly losing in federal court, the government had to back down.

Scientists and the federal court have made clear that the Morning After Pill is as safe as aspirin, but politics and religion trumped science for far too long.

This major victory has opened up another critical battle over the ability of young women, working women and poor women to have access to an affordable emergency contraceptive. Now the fight has shifted to the threat of state legislatures and pharmacies creating unlawful barriers to access as well as prohibitively high costs for access imposed by pharmaceutical companies profiting at the expense of women’s reproductive rights.

Despite being under a court order to make the generic emergency contraception available without restriction, the government is stating that it believes it can “comply” without doing so and instead wants to give exclusive over-the-counter status to a single pharmaceutical company that will charge exorbitant prices, putting emergency contraception out of the reach of many who desperately need it.

“The provision of emergency contraception without restriction is a landmark victory for reproductive justice,” said Andrea Costello, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund Senior Staff Attorney and lead attorney for the National Women’s Liberation Plaintiffs. “But women are not fooled by the latest maneuvers by this administration. We must ensure that all women and girls have true, affordable access.”

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said: “This is a watershed moment in the fight for reproductive rights in the United States at a time when the basic reproductive rights of women and girls have been under a full-scale assault across the country. We will not let up this fight until there is full access to emergency contraception without the government imposing improper and illegal barriers, including their plan to cruelly place the Morning After-Pill out of financial reach of millions of women and girls."

The PCJF is committed to seeing this struggle through and we need your support and participation.

Updates & Commentary

A watershed moment in the fight for women's reproductive rights

PCJF: A long legal battle enters a new stage
In response to a battle for over a decade to eliminate all restrictions on access to the Morning-After Pill, the Obama administration announced June 10 that it will comply with a federal court ruling that orders the administration to make emergency contraception available without restrictions, and plans to drop its appeal of that ruling. more >>

Court Cautions Feds on Morning-After Pill Exclusivity Deals

States that an exclusivity agreement "will only burden poor women"
The Court has told the government in its Memorandum that undue delay will not be countenanced in compliance with the Court's Order and that if the Obama administration enters into an exclusivity deal with the pharmaceutical company that it will "only burden poor women." more >>

Obama Administration Announces it is Dropping Legal Fight to Keep Morning-After Pill from Women in U.S.

Attorneys and Plaintiffs Speak Out
In response to a battle for over a decade to eliminate all restrictions on access to the Morning-After Pill, the Obama administration has just announced that it will comply with a federal court ruling ordering the administration to make the drug available without restrictions, and plans to drop its appeal. more >>

Court Orders Morning-After Pill Must Immediately Go Over-the-Counter Without Restrictions

Court Denies Government's Request for a Stay of Order on Two-Pill Product
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered the Obama administration’s Food and Drug Administration to comply with U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman’s Order to make to make two-pill versions of emergency contraception available over-the-counter without a prescription, age requirements or other restrictions on how it is sold. The government had sought a stay of Judge Korman’s Order from the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. more >>
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