Morning-After Pill to Be Made Available OTC to All Ages

by Heidi Pashman for SHAPE.com

Plan B now available OTC to anyone, regardless of agePlan B now available OTC to anyone, regardless of ageIt's been a big week in the world of reproductive rights: Last Friday, Judge Edward R. Korman of the Federal District Court has ordered the FDA to make the morning-after pill available over the counter for anyone of any age.

The ruling is a response to an ongoing and more-than-decade-old lawsuit between the FDA and Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). The FDA approved Plan B for prescription use in 1999, and in 2001 the CRR submitted a Citizen Petition that Plan B be made available over the counter for all ages. But it wasn't until 2009 that it was made available over the counter for those 17 years old and older and via prescription for anyone younger.

Last Friday's ruling counteracts a 2011 decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from the Obama Administration to keep the age restriction in place despite the FDA commissioner's approval to make Plan B available over the counter.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, was quoted in a press release as saying, "Today science has finally prevailed over politics. This landmark court decision has struck a huge blow to the deep-seated discrimination that has for too long denied women access to a full range of safe and effective birth control methods."

RELATED: What Healthcare Reform Means for You

Petra M. Casey, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, New York, agrees the change is positive: "This is great news for women throughout their reproductive years. They can have the medication on hand and take it if needed within the time interval when it is most effective." However, she also says that emergency contraception should not be a substitute for reliable primary contraception.

Putting to rest medical reasons that younger females should not take the morning-after pill if needed, Dr. Casey also stated that the World Health Organization (WHO) says that there is no medical condition which should prevent use of emergency contraception. In agreement, the 2011 statement from FDA Commisioner Magaret Hamburg, M.D. reads, "There is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential."

Judge Korman has issued that the FDA make the pill available over the counter for all ages within 30 days.

What do you think? Should the morning after pill be available to women of all ages?

More on SHAPE:
The Only 5 Exercises You Really Need
9 Low-Carb Snacks to Eat on the Go
22 Weight-Loss Tricks that Work