Conservative groups are upset today after the Obama administration stopped fighting to keep age restrictions on the sale of Plan B, commonly called "the morning after pill," on Monday.
"Though President Obama himself has said 'as the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine,' his administration has abandoned common sense and will allow our nation's teens and young girls to have access to a highly powerful drug forty times stronger than birth control," said Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, in a statement.
"I sincerely fear for the future health and wellness of women and children, as doctors, parents, and pharmacists are eliminated from this very serious conversation about sexual activity, pregnancy, fertility, and overall health."
A senior administration official reportedly told The Washington Post that Obama's stance against the sale of emergency contraceptives to young girls without a prescription has not changed. The Justice Department decided to drop the case, however, after multiple legal setbacks.
One such setback occurred last week, when a federal appeals court agreed to delay Plan B One-Step and other one-pill emergency contraceptives from being sold to children younger than 15 years old but would not allow such restrictions to remain on two-pill products.
The senior administration official told the Post the government thought it would probably lose its case, and rather than allowing the two-pill product to be made available over the counter, the administration preferred for the easier-to-use Plan B One-Step to be made available without a prescription.
"The Obama administration's decision making the morning after pill Plan B available to young girls at any age is a clear example of the administration's willingness to put politics ahead of the health and safety of girls," said Anna Higgins, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity, in a statement. "We are disappointed that this administration has once again sided with its political allies and ignored the safety of girls and the rights of parents."
Those who oppose over the counter access of the pill for all ages argue that it could cause some young girls to engage in reckless behavior. Some are also concerned that such easy access to the drug without a doctor's prescription could discourage girls from receiving medical screenings, which can play a vital role in the discovery and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.
"Additionally alarming is that Plan B 'access' advocates ignore the fact that doctors and parents are often the first line of defense for girls who are being sexually abused," Higgins previously wrote in an op-ed column for CP. "Removing doctors and parents from the equation will make it much easier for predators to conceal sexual abuse and to force the drug's use on minors."
The FDA approved the use of levonorgestrel, sold under the Plan B brand name, in 1999. In 2006, the FDA approved the sale of the drug without a prescription for adults, but still required minors to get a prescription first.
Teva Women's Health sought to make Plan B One-Step, an emergency contraceptive that requires its user to take one pill instead of two, available over the counter to women of all ages in 2011. The emergency contraceptive is meant to be taken within 72 hours after intercourse, and it primarily prevents pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. It may also do so, however, by preventing either the fertilization of an egg or the attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus.
In 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blocked the over the counter sale of Plan B One-Step to girls 16 years of age and younger, however, because there was not "enough evidence to show that those who use this medicine can understand the label and use the product appropriately." She also pointed out that there are "significant cognitive and behavioral differences" between the youngest girls of reproductive age and older adolescents.
Earlier this year, however, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman for the Eastern District of New York ruled that women of any age should be able to buy the emergency contraception without a prescription. At that time, Korman called Sebelius' decision "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent."
The Obama administration said in a letter to Korman on Monday that it would drop its appeal and abide by his order, the Post reports.