Federal Judge Orders Age Restrictions on Plan B to Be Lifted

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A federal judge ruled on Friday that Plan B, commonly known as the "morning after" pill, should be available to women of all ages. The decision strikes down a limit imposed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in December 2011 that stated that only women age 17 or older could purchase the drug without a prescription.

U.S. District Judge Edward Korman referred to the decision to continue to impose age restrictions on emergency contraception as "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable," as quoted by Reuters, and criticized Sebelius' original decision as being "obviously political." White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the media on Friday that President Barack Obama continues to support Sebelius' actions.

Here is some of the key information that emerged on Friday regarding Korman's ruling, and the immediate reaction to it.

* Obama had originally been supportive of placing an age-restriction on access to emergency contraception as well, citing his young daughters as part of the motivation for his position on the issue. On Friday, Carney said that the president continues to believe Sebelius' decision is "the right common sense approach to this issue," as quoted by Reuters.

* Korman's ruling, which was handed down in Brooklyn, N.Y., comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights that charged that all age and other restrictions on emergency contraception should be lifted, as they cause unreasonable delays in accessibility.

* As noted by the New York Times, Korman ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must lift all age-related and sale restrictions on the drug marketed as Plan B One-Step, as well as all generic versions of it, within the next 30 days.

* Korman also noted that the lawsuit he presided over on Friday had been in progress for more than 8 years, and that a citizen petition seeking to lift the age restrictions on emergency contraception had been filed with the FDA more than 12 years ago. He criticized the fact that the case had taken so long to reach the courts, and placed the blame for the delay squarely on the FDA itself, saying in his ruling that the government agency had "engaged in intolerable delays" and an "administrative agency filibuster," as quoted by the New York Times.

* Korman was also the same judge who ruled that the FDA must go back and review the safety of emergency contraception for all women back in 2009. That review led then-FDA Administrator Margaret A. Hamburg to announce that research showed that emergency contraception was safe for use by women of all ages, according to a report by the Washington Post. Sebelius overruled Hamburg's decision.

* On Friday Korman called Sebelius' decision to overrule Hamburg "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent," as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

* Opponents have already begun to criticize Korman's decision. Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, told Reuters on Friday that the decision to open up access to Plan B to women of all ages may lead to criminal activity and to the drug becoming "part of the date rape cocktail."

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.

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