Judge Orders Plan B to Be Sold To All

A ruling from Judge Edward Korman would let women of all ages buy the contraception, no prescription required.

Plan B

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Next time you’re browsing the aisles at CVS, something new might catch your eye: Plan B.

The so-called “morning-after pill,” which prevents a fertilized egg from resulting in a pregnancy if taken within three days of unprotected sex, has, until now, been available only to women 17 and older with a valid ID, and was kept behind the counter. But earlier this week, Federal Judge Edward Korman told the FDA that the contraception should be sold to women of all ages, no prescription required.

Korman’s decision could end a years-long debate over the sale of Plan B, which notably includes Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejecting a similar plan suggested by the FDA in December 2011, a rejection Korman calls in his ruling “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” And Korman’s order will end that debate (surprisingly) swiftly. An NPR report about the decision says:

In the decision, Korman sends the Plan B case back to FDA with orders to make the morning-after pill “available without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within 30 days.” If the agency decides the instructions for the drugs need tweaks, that’s OK.

An ABC News article quotes Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today science has finally prevailed over politics,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which first petitioned the FDA to make the emergency contraceptive available over the counter in 2001. “Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception.”

Making Plan B easier to come by is especially important for teenage girls, since an undercover study done last year by Tracy Wilkinson, of Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, showed that almost a fifth of 17-year-old girls seeking Plan B were told by pharmacists, incorrectly, that they were too young to purchase the pill. Perhaps more noteworthy is that the researchers found that only 3 percent of doctors calling to acquire Plan B for 17-year-old patients were told that they could not, revealing the discrimination that teenage girls often face when trying to buy contraception.

Plus, since the Guttmacher Institute estimates 82 percent of all teen pregnancies are unplanned, making emergency contraception readily available could cut down on the teen birthrate, which is already at record lows in Massachusetts. And no matter what your politics, increasing free choice always seems like a good thing to us.