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.
“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. “We are going to make sure that the government does indeed comply with the Court’s Order. The denial of full access to the Morning-After Pill has been an outrageous political decision and wholly without scientific basis – under both the Bush and Obama administrations. In recent days, we passed the 48th anniversary of the landmark birth control case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which recognized the constitutionally protected right of women to decide whether or not to have a child. It’s about time that the Obama administration recognized that access to all forms of birth control, including the Morning-After Pill, are essential for women to not just have this right, but exercise it.”
“It is a watershed moment in the fight for reproductive rights in the United States. Women’s and girls’ basic reproductive rights have been under a full-scale assault across the country,” stated attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “When the government finally complies with the Court’s Order, for the first time women and girls will be able to have full access to emergency contraception without the government imposing improper and illegal barriers.”
Annie Tummino, lead Plaintiff and Coordinator of National Women’s Liberation, said, “This decision by the Administration affirms what feminists have been fighting for all along – the Morning-After Pill should be available to females of all ages, on the shelf at any convenience store, just like aspirin or condoms. Women and girls should have the absolute right to control our bodies without having to ask a doctor or a pharmacist for permission.”
Plaintiff and NWL-New York Chapter organizer Erin Mahoney said, “This is an acknowledgement by the Obama administration that they have been unlawfully withholding the Morning-After Pill from women and girls in the United States. The Morning-After Pill was already available without a prescription in at least 63 other countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and Ghana. We are glad the United States has finally started to catch up to women around the world.”
Under the past two administrations, the Food and Drug Administration refused to remove restrictions on access to the Morning-After Pill (also known as “emergency contraception”) that were never supported by scientific evidence and subjected decision-making about the pills to politics at women’s expense.
On April 5, Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in the Plaintiffs’ favor in Tummino v. Hamburg 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.” Citing the Obama administration’s “unjustified departures” from established policy to make safe medications available to the public, the court found that the administration invoked arguments that were an “excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their right to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.” The Court found that the FDA had improperly restricted this safe and effective contraceptive after election-year “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 April 5 Order, the government filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that sought to continue to impose scientifically unjustified restrictions on access to emergency contraception. The Obama administration filed its appeal one day after it announced a “sweetheart” arrangement with the manufacturer of the one-pill emergency contraceptive drug that would force all women and girls to present government-issued ID to store clerks in order to obtain emergency contraceptives, and that would continue to deprive over-the-counter access to young teenagers. The government also requested two stays of the Court’s April 5 Order – one was denied by Judge Korman and the other denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as to two-pill emergency contraceptive products.