Brooklyn, New York — A federal judge in New York has denied a request by the Obama administration to stay his recent order mandating that all age limits to accessibility of the morning-after pill be removed.
As previously reported, Judge Edward R. Korman, appointed by Ronald Reagan, blasted the Obama administration in March for not making Plan B, and other generic variations of the pill, freely 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.
In response, the Justice Department asked Korman earlier this month to stay his order pending appeal as it asserted that his “court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review any aspect” of the case. On Friday, Korman rejected the request, scolding the administration for trying to “vindicate the improper conduct of the secretary.”
“Indeed, in my view, the defendants’ appeal is frivolous and is taken for the purpose of delay,” he wrote. “The cause of the rejection of over-the-counter sale of levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives was the secretary of health and human services. She has not changed her position. A remand would thus be futile. More significantly, I have been there and done that.”
Korman said that he could not allow Sebelius’ current arrangement to stand while the case is appealed.
“If a stay is granted, it will allow the bad-faith, politically motivated decision of Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise, to prevail — thus justifiably undermining the public’s confidence in the drug approval process,” he explained.
The Obama administration had argued in its request that public confusion could result if Korman’s ruling was imposed while an appeal moves forward. Korman rejected the government’s assertions as “largely an insult to the intelligence of women.”
“[T]his silly argument ignores the fact it is the government’s appeal from the order that sustained the judgment of the commissioner of the F.D.A. that is the cause of any uncertainty, and that that appeal is taken solely to vindicate the improper conduct of the secretary and possibly for the purpose of further delaying greater access to emergency contraceptives for purely political reasons,” he said.
As previously reported, the FDA attempted to compromise with the judge’s order last month as it moved the morning-after pill over the counter and lowered the purchasing age to 15. Korman denounced the move at a recent hearing, stating that it was meant to “sugarcoat” the government’s efforts to appeal, and repeated his assertion that all age restrictions should be lifted.
However, some pro-life groups strongly oppose the morning-after pill altogether as they believe that it only encourages youth — and women in general — to be sexually active.
“The MAP does nothing to alleviate the root problem of promiscuity. Rather, by offering a so-called ‘easy’ option to shirk the consequences of non-marital sex, this self-serve abortifacient only encourages people to become more sexually active with more partners,” stated Alex Mason of the Family Policy Network in Forest, Virginia. “The rise in the acceptance of casual sex is evidenced by the name of the pill. ‘Morning-after’ implies that aborting a baby is no big deal, like brushing one’s teeth or taking a shower. The MAP just adds one more item to the ‘morning-after’ to-do list.”
“With a misnomer like ‘emergency contraceptive pill,’ its name draws attention away from parental responsibility, abstinence, and self-control,” he added. “[T]he only ‘emergency’ that the MAP is named for is the ‘hassle’ of having a baby.”