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

  • Background

    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.

  • Legal Information

    Tummino v. Hamburg
    U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

    Judge Korman Order Denying Motion for Stay

    Judge Edward R. Korman Calls Government Argument "frivolous," "for the purpose of delay," and "largely an insult to the intelligence of women"

    Transcript of hearing on defense motion to stay Court Order pending appeal

    On May 7, U.S. District Court Judge Edward R. Korman heard arguments regarding the Obama administration’s Motion to Stay his Order from April 5, 2013, requiring that emergency contraception be made available without age and point-of-sale restrictions.
  • Press Coverage

    NPR: Judge Reluctantly Approves Government Plan For Morning-After Pill

    An obviously unhappy Judge Edward Korman has approved the Obama administration's proposal to make just one formulation of the morning-after birth control pill available over the counter without age restrictions.

    New York Times: Judge Refuses to Drop Order on Contraceptive Pill Without Regard to Age

    A federal judge on Friday stepped up his criticism of the Obama administration, accusing the Justice Department of making “frivolous” and “silly” arguments in its attempt to delay making the morning-after emergency contraceptive pill available to women and girls of all ages without a prescription.

    Christian Science Monitor: Judge won't delay his order for easy access to 'morning after' pill

    A federal judge on Friday refused to significantly delay his order that the morning-after emergency contraception pill be made widely available to women and girls regardless of their age.

    McClatchy: Federal judge denies FDA effort to block contraceptive access

    A New York federal judge on Friday denied a request by the Obama administration to delay his April 5 court order that allows emergency contraceptives to be sold without age limits or a prescription.

    The Guardian: Plan B age-restriction appeal from US government denied by federal judge

    A federal judge has denied an appeal by the US government to an order granting the unrestricted access of emergency contraception to women of all ages. Judge Slams 'Frivolous' Obama Defense Of Birth Control Pill

    In a scathing decision, a federal judge criticized the Obama administration for a “frivolous” stalling tactic to defend age restrictions for the morning after birth control pill.
  • Multimedia

    Annie Tummino, National Women's Liberation Speak Out at Health and Human Services

    Upon the news that a judicial ruling on their lawsuit is expected by the end of the month, Annie Tummino and National Women's Liberation held a speak out in front of Health and Human Services in New York City. (Video source: Ustream / StopMotionSolo)

    Women Sit-In at FDA for Morning After Pill Access

    National Women's Liberation members sit-in at the Food and Drug Administration (January 2005) to demand over-the-counter access to the Morning-After Pill.