The order overturns a 2011 decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to continue to restrict over-the-counter availability of the drug to girls ages 17 and over. In so doing, Sebelius had overruled the FDA, which had been poised to lift the remaining age restrictions.
New York Judge Edward Korman ruled today that the administration’s age restriction on the potentially abortifacient drug, which is designed to be taken within 72 hours of “unprotected” sex, is “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”
“We are reviewing the decision and evaluating the government’s options,” said F. Franklin Amanat, a lawyer for the government.
Korman is the same judge who in 2009 had ordered the FDA to make Plan B available over-the-counter to girls 17 and older, in a case brought forward by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Before that, it had only been available over-the-counter to girls 18 and older.
Anna Higgins, J.D., director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, slammed today’s decision, arguing that it “places the health of young girls at risk.”
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Higgins said she is “troubled” that the judge had ignored concerns raised by the HHS and other medical experts that there is little data on the health consequences of Plan B on adolescent girls.
She also raised concerns that making Plan B available over the counter will encourage reckless sexual behavior, and could expose young girls to sexual predators.
“There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to young girls, under coercion or without their consent,” she said. “The involvement of parents and medical professionals act as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today's ruling removes these commonsense protections.”
Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, agreed. “When these are right out there with the bubble gum, they're going to be part of the date rape cocktail,” she said to Reuters.
Over-the-counter access to Plan B has been a major goal of the pro-abortion movement for the past decade.
The decision comes only months after the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Planned Parenthood, and several other pro-abortion organizations had issued statements supporting making the drug available to sexually active teens.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards applauded today’s decision. “Lifting the age restrictions on over-the-counter emergency contraception is a significant and long-overdue step forward for women’s health that will benefit women of all ages,” she said.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, also chimed in with her approval, saying, “Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to putting women in control of our destinies.”
Kathleen Sebelius’s 2011 decision to uphold the age restriction on Plan B had shocked both pro-abortion and pro-life advocates.
In a memorandum explaining her decision, Sebelius had expressed concern that the “label comprehension and actual use studies submitted to FDA do not include data on all ages for which the drug would be approved and available over-the-counter.”
“Yet,” she continues, “it is commonly understood that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age, which I believe are relevant to making this determination as to the non-prescription availability of this product for all ages.”
President Obama had himself issued a statement supporting Sebelius. “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,” he said.
He added: “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.”
Popular pro-life writer Jill Stanek had called that decision by the pro-abortion Sebelius “a shocking dose of sanity.”
Plan B delivers a massive dose of the synthetic hormon levonorgestrel, which is similar to the naturally occurring hormone progesterone, into the body of a woman. In addition to preventing ovulation, it can also act by preventing a newly conceived embryo from implanting in the uterine wall.