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New York Times: U.S. Drops Bid to Limit Sales of Morning-After Pill

Reprinted from The New York Times

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 [June 10] 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.

The F.D.A. issued a statement Monday night saying that it planned to drop its appeal. “To comply with the order, the F.D.A. has asked the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step to submit a supplemental application seeking approval of the one-pill product to be made available O.T.C. without any such restrictions,’’ the statement said. “Once F.D.A. receives that supplemental application, the F.D.A. intends to approve it promptly.’’