Obama Administration Granted Last-Minute Appeal to Halt Unrestricted Morning-After Pill Sale

The Obama administration was granted its last-minute appeal on Monday to delay the sale of Plan B morning-after pills to girls of any age without a prescription.

The New York Times reported that the Plan B One-Step morning-after contraceptive pill will not be sold to girls of all ages, at least until the end of May, after a federal appeals court in Manhattan temporarily granted the Obama administration's request.

Federal judge Edward Korman had ruled last month against the Health and Human Services Department, in favor of making the pill available to all girls without a prescription. Last week, Korman denied the Justice Department's request to suspend his ruling while it appeals.

The Justice Department filed its appeal Monday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to stay Korman's ruling. Granting the Obama administration's request, the appeals court said that it will hear arguments from both sides before it implements the order.

Korman has accused Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius of playing politics in her efforts to block the unrestricted sale of morning-after pills. In a 17-page opinion denying a temporary halt to his order, Korman stated: "In my view, the defendants' appeal is frivolous and taken for the purposes of delay."

Groups that have urged Korman to lift the age-restriction ban, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued that unrestricted access to the Plan B pill can stop many unwanted pregnancies.

"In a country where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, there is a tremendous public interest in expanding access to safe and effective birth control methods, including emergency contraception, to as many women as possible," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Judge Korman's sound ruling simply orders the government to do what the experts at FDA have been trying to do for years: to put politics aside and let science guide us to a policy that makes emergency contraception readily accessible to all women when they need it most urgently."

Government attorneys, however, have warned that "substantial market confusion" could be created if Korman's ruling is not halted while the Obama administration continues its appeal. They said that the district court "plainly overstepped its authority" and expressed hopes that they will win the overall appeal.

Pro-life groups, meanwhile, have blasted wider and easier access to the morning-after pill, which they consider an abortifacient.

Deirdre McQuade, spokesperson for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said of the pill, "Many studies have shown that wider access to so-called 'emergency contraception' reduces neither pregnancy nor abortion rates, but can contribute to higher rates of sexually transmitted disease, especially among young people. No public health consideration justifies the unsupervised sale of such drugs to young teens."

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