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Court Denies Government’s Motion to Stay Order that Morning-After Pill Be Made Available Without Restrictions

Judge calls government argument “frivolous,” “for the purpose of delay” and “largely an insult to the intelligence of women”

In a scathing decision, U.S. District Court Judge Edward R. Korman has denied 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.

Calling the government’s appeal of his order “frivolous and … taken for the purpose of delay,” Judge Korman rejected the government’s efforts to continue to deprive women and girls in the United States access to Morning-After contraceptives. His Memorandum and Order calls the conduct of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in blocking access “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent” and a decision “so unpersurasive as to call into question her good faith.”

The Opinion calls the Obama administration’s argument “largely an insult to the intelligence of women.”

The Court’s Opinion details the “barriers to all women” that the government is creating for access to emergency contraception, including the high cost of the drug that the government is allowing Teva Pharmaceuticals to charge through a “sweetheart” exclusivity arrangement with the FDA and the fact that the government’s proposal will delay the ability of women to obtain a time-sensitive contraceptive despite the fact that the the label for the drug states that it should be taken “as soon as possible … after unprotected sex.”

The Court details the harmful impact of photo identification requirements that will disproportionately affect African American women, poor women and immigrant women, and notes the Obama administration’s own hypocrisy in challenging Voter ID laws while simultaneously demanding ID requirements of all women and girls for access to medication. He calls the invocation of the use of the drug by younger adolescents “a red herring to justify the continued burden suffered by older women who seek access to the drug.”

“President Obama is seeking to sacrifice the reproductive rights of women of all ages at the altar of his political strategy,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “He wants to placate the political right wing at the expense of the health needs and reproductive rights of women. It is as plain as day that the Obama administration has used deception and distraction as a tactic to avoid complying with the Court Order to make the Morning After Pill available without age restriction or identification barriers.”

“This is politics at its worst and the administration should be ashamed of its duplicitous conduct,” stated Andrea Costello, Senior Staff Attorney at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and counsel for the plaintiffs in the litigation.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) represents the plaintiffs, grassroots feminists activists with National Women’s Liberation (NWL) and 15-year-old Anaya Kelly in Tummino v. Hamburg. The lawsuit was filed along with the Center for Reproductive Rights and Southern Legal Counsel against the Food and Drug administration and Health and Human Services.

On April 5, the Court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor that there was no scientific basis for the Obama administration to continue to restrict access to emergency contraception. Judge Korman ordered that it be made available to women and girls “without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within thirty days.” The Court found that the FDA had improperly restricted this safe and effective contraceptive after “political interference” from the White House, and had done so against the medical and scientific evidence recommending the drug be made readily available.

Instead of complying with the Court’s Order, the government announced Tuesday, April 30 that it would force all women and girls to present government-issued ID to store clerks in order to obtain emergency contraceptives, and that it would continue to deprive over-the-counter access to young teenagers. In its Opinion, the Court called this agreement an effort to “sugarcoat” the appeal that the Obama administration filed the next day, Wednesday, May 1st.

The Court’s Memorandum and Order can be read here.