Fed Judge Orders Morning-After Pill Be Available to Women and Girls of All Ages

This undated image made available by Teva Women’s Health shows the packaging for their Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) tablet, one of the brands known as the “morning-after pill.” (AP)

A New York federal judge ruled Friday that the government must make emergency contraception available over the counter for women and girls of all ages within 30 days, instead of requiring a prescription for girls 16 and younger.

The ruling overturns a decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who said in 2011 that the morning-after pill could not be sold to girls younger than 17 without a prescription. Sebelius had overruled a recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration to make the pill available over the counter to all ages.

Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn called the government’s restrictions on access to the pill “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” the New York Times reported, and gave the FDA one month to lift age and sale restrictions on Plan B One-Step and its generic versions.

The White House did not immediately comment on the judge’s decision. The FDA said it couldn’t comment on the ruling, citing the ongoing legal matter, according to CNN.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said last year that oral contraceptives should sold over the counter in order to reduce unintended pregnancies in the United States, CNN noted. Those who oppose prescription requirements say prescriptions can delay access to the drug, increasing the chances of pregnancy.

According to the drug’s manufacturer, Plan B can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It is different from RU-486, commonly known as the abortion pill.