Plan B is available to teenagers younger than 17 only with a prescription. Older women must request it from a pharmacist. If Korman’s ruling stands, the product would be available to women of all ages and would no longer be placed behind the pharmacy counter. The judge ordered the FDA to lift the age restrictions within 30 days. The Obama administration has not said whether it will appeal the ruling.
Korman called Sebelius’s decision “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”
He also accused the FDA of acting in “bad faith” after years of delays on a citizen petition asking that the drug, known as Plan B, be made available over the counter without a prescription.
“More than twelve years have passed since the citizen petition was filed and eight years since this lawsuit commenced. The FDA has engaged in intolerable delays,” Korman wrote, saying its actions amounted to “an administrative agency filibuster.”
Women’s health advocates and major medical groups were quick to praise Friday’s ruling, saying it would help prevent unwanted pregnancies and remove unnecessary hurdles that often prevent teenagers from getting the pill in a timely manner.
“Science has finally prevailed over politics, to the benefit of millions of women across the United States,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which initiated the lawsuit on the morning-after pill in 2005, told reporters. “Today’s court order has swept away all the FDA’s stalling, all the interference, and all the political gamesmanship. No longer will women who need emergency contraception have to clear all manner of hurdles to get it.”
Meanwhile, antiabortion activists called the decision short-sighted, saying it could lead to more unprotected sex among teenagers, while also lowering the number of sexually active teens who are likely to discuss such issues with their parents or a doctor.
“It’s common sense to think that if young people are sexually active, they should be talking to their parents, they should be talking to medical professionals,” said Jeanne Monahan, head of the country’s largest antiabortion gathering, March for Life. “I see us going down a slippery slope . . . I don’t think it’s in the best interest of young women’s public health.”