Court Gives 17-Year-Old Girls Unrestricted Access to Morning-After Pill

By Susan Jones | March 24, 2009 | 6:25 AM EDT

( – A federal court in New York on Monday expanded teenagers’ access to Plan B – also known as the morning-after pill or emergency contraception.
The court gave the Food and Drug Administration 30 days to make Plan B available over the counter to 17 year olds. Right now, the pill is available over the county only to those 18 years and up.
Pro-life groups are dismayed that 17-year-old girls will now have unrestricted access to a drug that can produce abortion by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. But abortion rights groups celebrated the ruling, saying it takes politics out of science.
"Today's ruling is a tremendous victory for all Americans who expect the government to safeguard public health," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the lawsuit against the FDA.
"The message is clear -- the FDA should put medical science first and leave politics at the lab door. We are encouraged that the agency, now under new leadership, will take that message to heart."
The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the FDA in 2005 for failing to grant over-the-counter status to Plan B -- against the advice of scientific experts, it said.
The lawsuit -- Tummino v. von Eschenbach – asked that Plan B be made available to all women – “including young women who might benefit most from this form of contraception,” the Center said.  The group argues that emergency contraception is "safe and effective." It said Monday's ruling means that "all women -- including young women for whom the barriers and the benefits are so great -- are one step closer to having the access they need and deserve."
Pro-life groups said the Plan B ruling means 17-year-old minor girls will be able to get the pill without visiting a doctor or talking to their parents first.
This ruling jeopardizes girls' health and the ability of parents to care for their daughters' physical and emotional well-being,” said Chris Gacek of the Family Research Council.

“Judge (Edward) Korman has accepted lock, stock, and barrel all of the claims of a political ideology promoting sexual license for teens,” he added.

FRC noted that there are no scientific studies on the long-term effects of taking Plan B repeatedly. Critics point to a study from Scotland indicating that increased use of the morning-after pill does not decrease abortion rates.
"There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to women, especially sexually abused women and minors, under coercion or without their consent,” Gacek said. “Interaction with medical professionals is a major screening and defense mechanism for victims of sexual abuse.”
Making Plan B available over the counter also allows sexually active girls and women to bypass medical care that might detect sexually transmitted diseases and other health problems.
Americans United for Life also condemned Monday’s court ruling.
"Given legitimate concerns about the safety of self-medicating with Plan B, it is incomprehensible that we would allow a minor to walk into any pharmacy and obtain this drug without medical oversight or parental involvement,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, AUL’s president and CEO.
She noted that the court ruling does not permit the FDA to undertake another internal review of the drug's safety record or to receive evidence on the increased need to protect minors from dangerous medications and even sexual abuse.
In his ruling, Judge Korman blasted the FDA for allowing “political considerations” to enter its decision-making process.
"Indeed, the record is clear that the FDA's course of conduct regarding Plan B departed in significant ways from the agency's normal procedures regarding similar applications to switch a drug product from prescription to non-prescription use," the judge said in his ruling.
The Obama administration is expected to welcome the ruling.

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