WASHINGTON — Seventeen-year-olds will soon be able to buy the “morning after” emergency contraceptive without a doctor’s prescription, after the Food and Drug Administration bowed to a federal judge’s order Wednesday.
Reversing a contentious policy of the Bush administration, the FDA said in a brief statement it will not appeal a judge’s order that overturns restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of “Plan B” to women 18 and older.
Conservatives called the decision a blow to parental supervision of teens. But women’s groups said the FDA’s action was long overdue, since the agency’s own medical reviewers had initially recommended that the contraceptive be made available without any age restrictions.
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month in a lawsuit filed in New York that Bush administration appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to restrict over-the-counter access.
Korman ordered the FDA to let 17-year-olds get the birth control pills. He also directed the agency to evaluate whether all age restrictions should be lifted.
The FDA’s latest action does not mean that Plan B will be immediately available to 17-year-olds.The manufacturer must first submit a request.
“It’s a good indication that the agency will move expeditiously to ensure its policy on Plan B is based solely on science,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit.
Conservatives said politics drove the decision.
“Parents should be furious at the FDA’s complete disregard of parental rights and the safety of minors,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.
Plan B is emergency contraception that contains a high dose of birth control drugs that works by preventing ovulation or fertilization.