President Obama has not changed his position and still opposes over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives for young girls, said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity Monday to describe the White House’s reasoning. But the Justice Department decided to drop the case after multiple setbacks in federal courts in recent months.
Advocates for birth control cheered Monday’s decision as a victory for women’s rights and a boon to public health.
“This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement Monday, adding that the decision “will make emergency contraception available on store shelves, just like condoms, and women of all ages will be able to get it quickly in order to prevent unintended pregnancy.”
Antiabortion groups criticized the administration’s decision, restating their long-held view that giving young girls access to the contraceptive without requiring the notification of a doctor or parent could lead to reckless behavior.
“Parents all across the country ought to be really, really concerned that we’re seeing the Obama administration completely surrender any principle of defending women’s health to the politics of big abortion,” said Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest. “There are so many reasons to maintain some measure of control over the distribution of such a strong drug, particularly to young women. I see this as a really, really terrible development. . . . I just think it’s very troubling and sets a really bad standard.”
The Food and Drug Administration said Monday evening that it had asked the drug’s manufacturer, Teva Branded Pharmaceutical Products, to submit an application to make Plan B One-Step available over the counter without restrictions.
“Once FDA receives that supplemental application, the FDA intends to approve it promptly,” the agency said. Teva Pharmaceuticals declined to comment Monday on the decision and could not say how soon the pill would be available on pharmacy shelves.
Plan B is classified by the FDA as an emergency contraceptive and greatly reduces the chance of pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after intercourse. It differs from abortion drugs such as RU486, which is intended to terminate a pregnancy that already has been established.