The Justice Department announced late Monday night that it will not pursue its appeal to a court ruling that would lift the age restriction on emergency contraception methods like Plan B. This decision will allow the morning-after pill to be sold over-the-counter to any woman or girl, regardless of age.
Emergency contraception drugs like Plan B and its generic counterparts can prevent pregnancy if taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex. Planned Parenthood estimates that about 750,000 pregnancies occur amongst 15- to 19-year-old girls each year, many of which are unintended. This new decision could stand to reduce that number significantly.
The drug has been at the center of numerous political battes since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999. President Obama supported his Secretary of Health's decision in December, 2011 to require a prescription for Plan B for girls under the age of 17. When conservatives and reproductive health advocates alike cried foul, he defended his decision as being made by "the father of two daughters."
U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman, who will oversee the court ruling, has called the age restrictions on the drug “politically motivated” and “scientifically unjustified." President Obama has plenty of reason to choose his political battles wisely right now, and seems to have made the calculation that fighting the judge's ruling to provide over-the-counter access to Plan B is not worth the political cost. (Liberals be angry.)
“This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity," Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement released Monday night, "The FDA’s decision will make emergency contraception available on store shelves, just like condoms, and women of all ages will be able to get it quickly in order to prevent unintended pregnancy."