Washington, D.C. — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that it is now making the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B, available over-the-counter, and is lowering the purchasing age for teen girls.
The move comes weeks after a court order to lift the age limit for accessibility to the pill, and is seen as a compromise as the government is currently considering whether to appeal the decision.
As previously reported, last month Judge Edward R. Korman, appointed by Ronald Reagan, blasted the Obama administration for not making Plan B, and other generic variations of the pill, available to all ages. He stated that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius likely had the presidential election in mind when she set the age limit to 17 in 2011.
“The motivation for the secretary’s action was obviously political,” he wrote. “[I]t was scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”
But Sebelius stated at that time that the basis of her decision was her belief that Teva Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of Plan B, had not yet researched whether the morning-after pill might be harmful to girls as young as age 11.
Now, in an effort to appease the court, the FDA has moved the morning-after pill over-the-counter, and lowered the legal age to 15. Heretofore, pharmacists kept the drug behind the counter, and women and girls had to show proof that they were at least 17 years of age.
Following Tuesday’s announcement, the morning-after-pill will be placed on the shelves next to other sexually-related items. However, a special bar code will alert the cashier to request identification when the item is purchased. Those who are unable to present proof of age, such as a valid driver’s license or a birth certificate, will not be able to buy the product.
While Planned Parenthood cheered at the move, other abortion groups remain unhappy about the requirement to present identification.
“These are daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops women are forced to jump through in time-sensitive circumstances,” said Nancy Northrup of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “[W]e will continue our battle in court to remove these arbitrary restrictions on emergency contraception for all women.”
The morning-after pill has been at the center of controversy since the abortion pill mandate went into on effect as part of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, on January 1st. Businesses nationwide are required to provide insurance coverage for their employee’s use of the morning-after and week-after pills, which many believe are abortifacients. Hobby Lobby, Tyndale House Publishers and Domino’s Farms Corporation are among the numerous businesses that have filed for an injunction against the mandate.
“These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families,” Hobby Lobby CEO David Green wrote in a statement last year. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate. … By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a Catholic, had suggested that making contraceptives available over-the-counter would eliminate concern.
“As a conservative Republican, I believe that we have been stupid to let the Democrats demagogue the contraceptives issue and pretend, during debates about health-care insurance, that Republicans are somehow against birth control,” he wrote in in op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in December. “As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it. But anyone who has a religious objection to contraception should not be forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others.”