In a "huge breakthrough" for women and girls across the country, the Obama administration will lift the age-restrictive ban on emergency contraception, allowing slightly-limited access to the birth control method known as the morning-after pill.
Women's groups who have been working against the age-restrictive ban are excited but hesitant to celebrate due to the FDA's request that the maker of Plan B One-Step must submit a new request for over-the-counter approval. President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards did comment that “this is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity.”
Annie Tummino of the National Women's Liberation noted "it’s about time that the administration stopped opposing women having access to safe and effective birth control.”
“It’s about time that the administration stopped opposing women having access to safe and effective birth control” —Annie Tummino, National Women’s LiberationAccording to CNN, in April U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York ruled that the government could not maintain their previously established ban requiring prescriptions. Last week a federal appeals court denied the administration's challenge to Korman's ruling. President Obama has yet to comment on why he has stopped trying to block the measure, but various news outlets speculate that the Justice Department is aware they would most likely have to appeal to the Supreme Court, substantially elevating the debate.
As MSNBC reports, the administration prohibited over-the-counter access to anyone age 16 and younger in late 2011. The rationale for this decision was unclear but critics suggest the ban was a reelection tactic.
National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill applauded the announcement on Tuesday:
The National Organization for Women is encouraged by the Obama administration's promise to federal district court Judge Edward R. Korman that it will withdraw its appeal of his ruling, in which the FDA was ordered to make all forms of emergency contraception available over the counter without age restrictions. With access to this safe and effective product, women of all ages will be able to take immediate action to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.
Study after study has demonstrated that emergency contraception is an effective and safe way of preventing unwanted pregnancies. After a decade of wrangling over access to this medication, it is time for common sense and science-based medicine to win the day. NOW calls on the Obama administration to comply with Judge Korman's order without delay and without qualification.
Lucia Brown is a summer editorial intern at Common Dreams.