A federal judge has ruled that the government must make the most common morning-after pill available over the counter for all ages, instead of requiring a prescription for girls 16 and younger.
The decision, on a fraught and politically controversial subject, comes after a decade-long fight over who should have access to the pill and under what circumstances. And it counteracts an unprecedented move by the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, who in 2011 overruled a recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration to make the pill available for all ages without a prescription.
In a decision in a lawsuit filed by advocates, the judge, Edward R. Korman of Federal District Court, ruled that the government’s refusal to lift restrictions on access to the pill was “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.”
Judge Korman ordered the F.D.A. to lift any age and sale restrictions on the pill, Plan B One-Step, and its generic versions, within 30 days.
THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND AWESOME NEWS. However, we still have questions:
- What does this ruling mean for “morality clauses” that allow pharmacists to not dispense Emergency Contraception on religious or moral grounds? Will they still apply even for OTC medications? (ETA: even though plan b is currently OTC for people 17+, FDA rules require it be kept behind the pharmacy counter, making the pharmacist the gatekeeper.)
- Will insurance cover this? EC is expensive, often running $50+ a box. If insurance doesn’t cover it, will the price go down?
If you have insight into either of these questions, hit us up. Also remember that just because this ruling happened doesn’t mean there won’t be a ridiculously long and drawn out appeal process. In the meantime, check out the PSA for Emergency Contraception we wrote around the time that HHS struck down the FDA’s recommendation to make EC available OTC.