Obama Backs Down on Emergency Contraception

This week, the Obama administration issued a statement declaring that it plans to comply with a federal court ruling allowing unrestricted sales of one-step emergency contraception.  The announcement marks the end of a lengthy battle on the issue and represents a sharp divergence from the administration’s previous rhetoric. 

Conflict over emergency contraception first arose over a decade ago under the Bush administration.  Although doctors have long agreed that the pill is safe and effective for women of all ages, and the stance of the Food and Drug Administration is that emergency contraception should be readily available, women have still faced a number of obstacles.  In 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s attempts to make emergency contraception available freely, placing age and I.D. restrictions on sales of Plan B.  This week’s court ruling, however, will eventually lift those restrictions. 

The federal judge who issued the ruling accused the government of frivolous and politically motivated actions surrounding the regulation of emergency contraception.  Judge Edward Korman’s ruling is a significant step towards making contraception readily available to women of all ages.  Previous restrictions on sales of emergency contraception, which set a minimum age of 17 for purchase and mandated that women show I.D., served as roadblocks for both teenagers and many poor women, some of the very groups that benefit most from proper prevention practices.  These restrictions often prevented women from obtaining Plan B or delayed their access, despite the fact that the pill is more effective the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex.  

With the Obama administration no longer fighting access to emergency contraception, restrictions should be lifted and emergency contraception available on the shelf as soon as the FDA approves a new application filed by the makers of Plan B One-Step.  Obama’s new acceptance of this important issue highlights that on both sides of the aisle, leaders need to put women before politics.

Read more on the ruling here

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