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

PCJF: A long legal battle enters a new stage

Obama Administration Says it is Dropping Legal Fight to Keep Morning-After Pill from Women in United States

Front page coverage from The New York Times below

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.

This is a major victory but it has opened up another critical battle with the government over the ability of young women and poor women to have access to an affordable emergency contraceptive.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund is representing plaintiffs challenging the government’s unscientific and politically motivated restrictions on access to emergency contraception and have today filed objections to the government’s inadequate plans for compliance.

Under the past two administrations, the Food and Drug Administration refused to remove restrictions on access to the Morning-After Pill that were never supported by scientific evidence. The Obama administration even intervened directly to make an election-year political determination to keep the contraception from going over-the-counter. After a long battle, the government has had to back down from its politically motivated restrictions on women’s access to emergency contraceptives after it repeatedly lost in federal court.

But now, we are challenging the government’s proposed “compliance” with the Court’s Order because the proposal acts to deprive poor women and young women from accessing the Morning-After Pill. 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.”

Excerpt from the front page of the New York Times

U.S. Drops Bid to Limit Sales of Morning-After Pill

By Michael D. Shear

[WASHINGTON] The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block over-the-counter availability of the most popular morning-after contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with political repercussions for President Obama.

The reversal by the government means that anyone, no matter how young, will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription.

The Justice Department had been fighting to prevent that outcome, but said late Monday afternoon that it would drop its appeal of a judge’s order to make the drug more widely available. In a letter to Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the administration said it would comply with his demands that the Food and Drug Administration be allowed to certify the drug for nonprescription use.

The Justice Department appears to have concluded that it might lose its case with the appeals court and would have to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. That would drastically elevate the debate over the politically delicate issue for Mr. Obama.

Women’s rights groups, who had sued the government to clear the way for broader distribution of the drug cautiously hailed the decision as a significant moment in the battle over reproductive rights but said they remained skeptical until they saw details about how the change will be put into practice.

The drug prevents conception if taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse.

“We will not rest in this fight until the morning-after pill is made available without delay and obstruction,’’ said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Read the full New York Times article here.

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