Emergency Contraception Ruling is a Victory for Women

ECAs of Friday morning, a federal judge has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift longstanding restrictions on women’s access to emergency contraception (EC). Citing the FDA’s refusal to broaden access as “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,“ U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman has decided to make EC–known by its brand name, Plan B–available over-the-counter to women and girls of all ages. With this court ruling, all women will have unrestricted access within 30 days.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had previously eased limitations on EC, lowering the age restriction to 17 years from the 18-year-old age limit established by the Bush Administration. Judge Korman has declared the drug “among the safest” of those sold over-the-counter, and stated that “plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should agency’s misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the FDA to engage in further delay and obstruction.”

Plan B is currently available to women 17 and older without a prescription, and to women under 17 with a prescription. Judge Korman’s ruling will not only remove these age restrictions but also the prerequisite of a prescription and adequate identification. Furthermore, today’s ruling expands the outlets at which Plan B can be obtained. While EC is currently restricted to health clinics or pharmacies, drug companies are now able to apply to make EC available elsewhere.

Today’s order was issued in response to the Center for Reproductive Rights’ lawsuit against the FDA to expand access to emergency contraceptives. Nancy Northup, the Center for Reproductive Rights’ president and CEO, commended the ruling, saying, “Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception.”

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Mettiche under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. This is truly excellent news for women and for teen girls 17 and older as well. But I have no doubts that the anti-choice side will quickly start making all kinds of ridiculous statements against this decision. Additionally, I think they will probably try to block access to emergency contraception in states like North Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi, and other states with Republican-controlled legislatures. The Winter issue cover of Ms. said it best; “Without access, there is no choice.” I think that prochoice activists in those states have to begin thinking of ways around those blockades before Republican politicians start putting them in place.

  2. Rosita Libre de Marulanda says:

    I must say it is a wonderful victory.

    But this article glosses over at least 2 remaining thorns on the sides of women

    1. Activists have been calling for ON THE COUNTER, not over the counter;
    We want them next to the condoms.
    2. Men and boys are denied the MAP even if their sex partners have requested it.

  3. Another roadblock that the anti-choice side might quickly erect is the tactic of using “prolife” pharmacy owners who might begin refusing to stock EC in their stores. Or, if EC is stocked because some anti-choice pharmacists and sales clerks are only employees not store owners, they could refuse to sell it to women.

    I remember very well the problems some women had at drug stores a few years ago, when some anti-choice pharmacists were refusing to fill regular contraceptive prescriptions. The same tactics could be used to block women’s and girls’ access to emergency contraception. If women and girls run into anti-choice sales clerks or pharmacists, what can they do to make sure they get the EC they came to purchase?

  4. Why is this not a victory for men as well? It takes two to create a child and in today’s America there is no escaping the responsibility of a child, male or female. As someone who has purchases emergency contraceptive at 17, it wasn’t because a man’s irresponsibility. It was because of OUR irresponsibility. This is a victory for all men and women.

  5. Just this morning I read an article on the NARAL “Blog For Choice” site that anti-choice politicians are fighting against comprehensive sex-ed programs that reduce abortion in several states. If they are successful in this latest effort, more girls and women may not know that EC is even available over the counter, because this knowledge was denied to them. I find the lengths that these politicians will go to prevent girls and young women from knowing how to prevent unwanted pregnancy deeply disturbing, not to mention counterproductive. They seem determined to roll back women’s rights, including women’s reproductive rights, as far into the past as possible. I guess the important question is, what can be done to push back against these efforts at regression for women.

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