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MEXICO CITY, May 6, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – President Barack Obama told reporters at a Mexico City press conference Thursday that he is “very comfortable” with newer, more lax guidelines allowing the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B to be sold over-the-counter to girls as young as 15, and requiring it to be available on easy-to-access store shelves instead of behind the pharmacy counter.

“The rule that’s been put forward by the FDA, [Department of Health and Human Services] Secretary Sebelius has reviewed,” Obama said.  “She’s comfortable with it; I’m comfortable with it.”

Plan B (Levonorgestrel) is a strong dose of hormones that, if taken within 72 hours after intercourse, will prevent pregnancy by either blocking ovulation or by preventing a newly conceived embryo from implanting in the uterine wall. It can have a number of unpleasant side effects, including heavy bleeding, nausea, headaches and cramping.  In rare cases it can also cause diarrhea, migraines, vomiting, allergic reactions, severe abdominal pain and even life-threatening ectopic pregnancies.

Plan B was first approved for adult use in 1999, but was initially available only by prescription. In 2006, the FDA approved it as an over-the-counter drug for women over the age of 18, and allowed minors to obtain it by prescription. In 2009, a federal judge ordered the FDA to make Plan B available to 17-year-olds over-the-counter, as well.  The same judge issued an order in April requiring the government to lift all age restrictions on the drug, but the Obama administration is appealing that decision.

“My suspicion is that the FDA may now be called upon to make further decisions about whether there’s sufficient scientific evidence for girls younger than 15,” Obama said at the Mexico City press conference. “That’s the FDA’s decision to make. That’s Secretary Sebelius’s decision to review.”

Sebelius has resisted lowering the age limits in the past, angering pro-choice feminist activists who expected the pro-abortion secretary to decide in their favor.  In 2011, she overruled an attempt by the FDA to lift age restrictions, writing, “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.”

At the time, Obama 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.

Added Obama: “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.”

In the United Kingdom, where Plan B is provided to teens free of charge, tracking by the government has shown that the drug does little to reduce overall pregnancy rates but may encourage riskier sexual behavior. A study of the United Kingdom’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy program found that after Plan B was made freely available to teens, pregnancy rates for minors under 16 remained level, while sexually transmitted diseases increased by 12 percent.

The hormone also appears to suppress the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. A 2002 study conducted by McMaster University in Toronto found that lab mice given progesterone were 100-times more likely to develop an HIV infection than those not given the drug.

Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, warned that widespread availability of Plan B will make it easier for people who rape minor girls to cover up their crimes. “When these are right out there with the bubble gum, they're going to be part of the date rape cocktail,” she told Reuters.