Obama switches to Plan B in contraception battle

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The federal government told a judge on Monday it will take steps to comply with orders to make emergency contraception available to anyone, regardless of age. The change of heart will allow for Teva s Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) to be available over the counter immediately after the FDA receives and approves an application by Teva to sell their product without age restrictions. The FDA states that once the application is received, it intends to approve it promptly.

The Obama administration had previously taken a stance against making contraception available to women and girls of all ages, without a prescription, claiming that the restrictions were required because the scientific evidence did not support the safety of the drug for girls under 15. Women s rights groups, as well as many medical and health groups did not agree. Since the battle began over a year ago, advocates for lifting age restrictions have criticized the restrictions as politically based and lacking in scientific reasoning. Last April, U.S. District Judge Korman sided quite emphatically with those calling for the removal of age and prescription requirements, and ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception universally available.

Although the pill has been proven as safe by the FDA in the past, anti-abortion groups and social conservatives worry about the safety of making the pill accessible to anyone, regardless of age. Some oppose birth control altogether, while others worry about parents ability to monitor their children without such age restrictions. However, government restricting the pill on such grounds is politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent according to Judge Korman.

While the change of course for the Federal Government is a victory for many, the reason for the backtracking is not exactly clear. However, an appeals court decision last week to make Plan-B two step available over the counter immediately while the appeal was decided, and increasing support for accessibility of the contraception, might have something to do with it.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross added that he believes there s a bit more to it than that: If the Department of Justice had pursued this baseless appeal, and the Circuit Court had agreed with Judge Korman, the only option would have been to seek a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. I doubt that anyone in the Administration wanted to get their opinion on this issue, a lose-lose for the president I believe.