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Judge Orders Plan B to Be Over the Counter for All Ages

Update Date: Apr 05, 2013 12:36 PM EDT

A federal judge ruled today that emergency contraception should be available over-the-counter for all women, regardless of age. The ruling is a reversal of the previous policy, which allowed the contraceptive to be available to women over the age of 17 over the counter, but required a prescription for younger girls.

According to CNN, United States' District Court Judge Edward Korman said, "The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step and that of the FDA with respect to the Citizen Petition, which it had no choice but to deny, were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable."

The ruling is a victory for reproductive rights groups and many medical associations. According to the New York Times, diverse groups of physicians, like the  American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all come out in favor of allowing emergency contraception to be available for all women of child-bearing age.

The judge raised the issue of politics, saying that the decision of the Food and Drug Administration not to lift the prescription requirement for girls under the age of 16 was the equivalent of an "agency filibuster". Reuters reports that the FDA had stated in 2011 that Plan B One-Step was acceptable for use in girls of child-bearing age. However, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made an unprecedented move by saying that there was insufficient evidence to support the decision to remove the restrictions. The FDA then rejected the petition to do so.

At the time, President Obama said, "I will say this, as the father of two daughters: I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine...And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going into a drugstore should be able - alongside bubble gum or batteries - be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect. And I think most parents would probably feel the same way."

The FDA says that it is reviewing the decision. Spokespeople declined to speak to reporters about the matter, saying that it was an ongoing court case.

Plan B, which was approved by the FDA in 1999, and Plan B One-Step are both manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals Ltd. The pill, which is most effective 24 hours after being taken, prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. If the egg is already fertilized, the pill can also prevent the egg from implanting itself on the uterine wall. If the egg is already implanted, Plan B cannot work.

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