Reagan-appointed U.S. Federal District Judge Edward Korman, of Brooklyn, NY took the Obama administration to task today, accusing them of bending to conservatives by banning the sale of over-the-counter contraceptives to young girls.
Taking matters into his own hands the judge ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the “morning-after” pill available without prescription to girls of all ages within 30 days.
The pill, popularly known as “Plan B,” typically works up to 72 hours after intercourse, and is distinct from the so-called “abortion pill.”
The ruling overturns a decision in 2011 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that barred over-the-counter sales of the controversial pill to girls under 17. Sebelius’ decision itself had overruled an FDA recommendation to widen availability of the drug.
Sebelius argued that 11-year-old girls might not be able to understand how to use the drug properly. President Obama backed her choice, citing the safety of pre-teens as well.
Korman strenuously disagreed in his pointed 59-page decision.
“These emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over-the-counter,” Korman wrote in his ruling. “The number of 11-year-olds using these (morning-after) drugs is likely to be minuscule.”
Korman ripped Sebelius’ 2011 position as “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent.”
NY Daily News reported today that the Justice Department offered no immediate word on whether Korman’s ruling would be appealed. “We are reviewing the decision and evaluating the government’s options,” said Justice Attorney F. Franklin Amanat.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards released the following statement in response today’s ruling: “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. When a woman fears she might become pregnant after her contraceptive has failed or she has had unprotected sex, she needs fast access to emergency contraception, not delays at the pharmacy counter. Lifting these restrictions will allow emergency contraception to be stocked on store shelves, making it more accessible to everyone.”
Social Conservative Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council said, “This ruling places the health of young girls at risk. There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to young girls, under coercion or without their consent. The involvement of parents and medical professionals act as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today’s ruling removes these commonsense protections.”
Judge Korman has said the FDA decided after 11 months, 47,000 public comments and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars spent, that it did not need rulemaking on the subject.