Who should get the morning-after pill?

Kaiser Health News compiled this roundup of viewpoints on the latest rules on emergency contraception, the so-called morning-after pill, and its availability to young women.

Legal and political controversy has been part of the picture ever since the pill’s approval by the FDA. Two years ago, the FDA ruled the drug should be available to all girls and women, with no need for a prescription. But President Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the agency, keeping the age limit at 17 and older.

On April 5, federal Judge Edward R. Korman ordered the restriction be lifted and starkly rebuked delays in making the drug available to young women. On April 30, the FDA set a new age limit, 15 and older, for the most popular version of the pill, known as Plan B One-Step.

Now officials with the Department of Justice are saying they will fight the federal judge’s broader decision that the drug should be available to all girls and women.

From The New York Times: “The move to appeal the court ruling came just a day after the FDA staked out a new position, setting the age restriction on nonprescription access to the most well-known brand of emergency contraception — Plan B One-Step — at 15 years and telling pharmacies to stock the product on display shelves rather than behind the counter. It also said purchasers would have to prove their age by showing a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or other official form of identification. The compromise guidelines are a step in the right direction but still inadequate. There is no good reason to limit the product to those 15 and older. And the ID requirement represents a significant barrier for a time-sensitive drug. Many teenagers don’t have any kind of ID.”

From The Washington Post: “When U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month that the government had to allow unrestricted, over-the-counter access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B, it seemed as though the Obama administration had stumbled its way out of a political quandary. Scientists say that the drug is safe for over-the-counter sale; in fact, the judge noted, it would be among the safest of over-the-counter drugs. But many parents — President Obama included, by his own account — are queasy about children being allowed to buy emergency contraceptives without oversight. The court forced the government to act on evidence, not queasiness.”

From Bloomberg: “Few parents are comfortable with the thought of young teenagers using emergency contraception. That shouldn’t make us insensitive to the fact that girls this age might need to. Because the drug blocks fertilization best if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, it is counterproductive to require the user to delay taking it in order to see a doctor first. … The court was right to side with science, leaving parents to establish their own moral guidelines. The administration should obey his ruling and remove the age limit without delay.”


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