Morning after pill available OTC to 15 and up

Updated: Wednesday, May 1 2013, 04:42 AM EDT
Morning after pill available OTC to 15 and up story image

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is moving the morning-after pill
over the counter but only those 15 and older can buy it — an attempt to
find middle ground just days before a court-imposed deadline to lift all
age restrictions on the emergency contraceptive.

Today, Plan B
One-Step is sold behind pharmacy counters, and buyers must prove they're
17 or older to buy it without a prescription. Tuesday's decision by the
Food and Drug Administration lowers the age limit and will allow the
pill to sit on drugstore shelves next to spermicides or other women's
health products and condoms — but anyone who wants to buy it must prove
their age at the cash register.

Some contraceptive advocates called the move promising.

decision is a step in the right direction for increased access to a
product that is a safe and effective method of preventing unintended
pregnancies," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "It's also a decision that
moves us closer to these critical availability decisions being based on
science, not politics."

But earlier this month, U.S. District
Judge Edward Korman of New York blasted the Obama administration for
imposing the age-17 limit, saying it had let election-year politics
trump science and was making it hard for women of any age to obtain the
emergency contraception in time. He ordered an end to the age
restrictions by Monday.

The women's group that sued over the age limits said Tuesday's action is not enough, and it will continue the court fight.

the age limit "may reduce delays for some young women but it does
nothing to address the significant barriers that far too many women of
all ages will still find if they arrive at the drugstore without
identification," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for
Reproductive Rights.

The FDA said the Plan B One-Step will be
packaged with a product code that prompts the cashier to verify a
customer's age. Anyone who can't provide such proof as a driver's
license, birth certificate or passport wouldn't be allowed to complete
the purchase.

"These are daunting and sometimes insurmountable
hoops women are forced to jump through in time-sensitive circumstances,
and we will continue our battle in court to remove these arbitrary
restrictions on emergency contraception for all women," Northup said.

the nation's pregnancies every year are unintended, and doctors' groups
say more access to morning-after pills could cut those numbers. The
pills contain higher doses of regular contraceptives, and if taken
within 72 hours of unprotected sex, can cut the chances of pregnancy by
up to 89 percent.

The FDA had been poised to lift all age limits
and let Plan B sell over-the-counter in late 2011, when Health and Human
Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an unprecedented move,
overruled her own scientists. Sebelius said some girls as young as 11
are physically capable of bearing children, but shouldn't be able to buy
the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own.

President Barack
Obama supported Sebelius' move and a spokesman said earlier this month
that the president's position hadn't changed.

The FDA said
Tuesday's decision was independent of the court case. Instead, after the
Obama administration's 2011 action, Plan B maker Teva Women's Health
had filed a new application with the age-15 compromise.

Morning after pill available OTC to 15 and up
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