Consider this a win for women's health advocates: U.S. District Judge Edward Korman has ruled that the U.S. government must make the "morning-after" pill available over the counter and available to all ages. Responding to suit brought to the Brooklyn court by reproductive rights groups, "which had sought to remove age and other restrictions on emergency contraception," Reuters reports, the judge struck down a law Friday morning requiring girls 16 and under to obtain a prescription before obtaining the pill. Korman's decision "counteracts an unprecedented move by the Obama administration's Health and Human Services secretary who in 2011 overruled a recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration to make the pill available for all ages without a prescription," reports The New York Times's Pam Belluck. Korman ordered the FDA to lift restrictions on the pill within 30 days.
"Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, is quoted as saying in the Reuters report.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was a major — and majorly controversial — part of that overruling in December of 2011, upsetting women's heath advocates who had argued that the Obama administration was acting politically, moving on ideology rather than science. "The Plan B decision was a missed opportunity for Obama to strengthen his record on women's reproductive issues," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America told told the Huffington Post's Laura Bassett at the time.
Previously, girls under the age of 17 would have had to get a prescription before obtaining emergency contraception medication. And since the pill, according to Plannet Parenthood, needs to be taken within five days of intercourse, the time frame presented a problem for girls 16 and under who might not be able to get a prescription — for whatever reason — in time for contraception to work properly. The FDA has not commented on the case, and has said it's an ongoing legal matter.