(CNSNews.com) – Three major drugstore chains--CVS, RiteAid, and Walgreens--have moved “Plan B,” a drug that can induce an abortion, onto the open shelves in their stores, where it is now sold like aspirin or other non-prescription drugs.
In April, Judge Edward Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the drug available on a non-prescription basis to women "of all ages."
On June 20, the FDA announced that it had approved the non-prescription sale of Plan B to all women who have "reproductive potential" no matter what their age.
“On June 10, 2013, [FDA] notified a United States District Court judge in New York of its intent to comply with the court’s April 5, 2013 order instructing the FDA to make levonorgestrel-containing emergency contraceptives available as an over-the-counter (OTC) product without age or point-of-sale restrictions,” said the announcement.
However, the Food and Drug Administrations also says it does not have any authority to require retailers to carry specific products, including Plan B. Thus, stores remain free to sell or not sell the abortion-inducing drug.
Spokespersons for CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens told CNSNews.com that their companies have put policies in place that allow employees--including pharmacists--to refrain from selling Plan B if they have a moral objection to selling a drug that can induce abortion.
Plan B can abort a human life by preventing an embryo from implanting in the mother's uterus.
Plan B's package states: “This product works mainly by preventing ovulation (egg release). It may also prevent fertilization of a released egg (joining of sperm and egg) or attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus (implantation).”
All three drugstore chains confirmed to CNSNews.com that they would be selling the drug on shelves in their stores for anyone to access. Representatives from the three retailers answered a series of questions, including whether or not a policy was in place to protect employees who morally object to abortifacients.
“Our stores currently are in the process of making Plan B available as an over-the-counter product, consistent with FDA guidelines,” Jim Graham, spokesman for Walgreens, told CNSNews.com via email. “We have a long-standing policy that allows pharmacists and other employees to step away from completing a transaction to which they have a moral objection.
“In those instances, the transaction is referred to another employee or manager on duty who will complete the customer’s purchase,” Graham said.
“We have directed all stores to display Plan B One Step in either the family planning or feminine care departments,” Michael DeAngelis, spokesperson for CVS, told CNSNews.com via e-mail. “An employee who has a deeply held religious belief against selling this product is required to notify us in advance so that we can staff work shifts to ensure that our customers’ needs are promptly satisfied.”
“Consistent with the directions of the FDA and a federal court, Rite Aid will allow the over the counter purchases of Teva’s Plan B One-Step® regardless of a customer’s age or gender,” Eric Harkreader, spokesperson for Rite Aid, told CNSNews.com via email. “This applies to all stores.”
“If any Rite Aid associate is unable to sell Plan B One-Step because of religious or moral beliefs, the associate must immediately locate a supervisor, pharmacist or any other associate in the store (or nearest Rite Aid or other provider) to complete the transaction and meet the customer’s need,” Harkreader said.
The FDA announcement noted that Plan B One-Step was first approved in July 2009 by the agency for use without prescription to women 17 and older. In April 2013 the product was made available to women as young as 15 without a prescription, the announcement states.
“The product is now available without a prescription for use by all women of reproductive potential,” the announcement states.
Despite the fact that the Obama administration at first stated that it would fight the court ruling making Plan B available over the counter to purchasers of all ages--and try to keep an age restriction on purchases of the abortion-inducing drug--a physician at the FDA expressed approval of the over-the-counter sales in the agency’s announcement.
“Over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
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