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Reproductive Rights Community Wins Huge Victory with Court Order on Plan B

On March 23, 2009 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that the decision by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to limit over-the-counter distribution of the emergency contraceptive Plan B to those ages 18 and older was politically motivated. The court ordered the FDA to reconsider its decision, and directed the agency to act within 30 days to extend over-the-counter access to 17 year-olds. Most significantly, the court also ordered the FDA to reconsider allowing the contraceptive to be made available over-the-counter to women of all ages.[i]

On April 22, the FDA stated that it would allow the Plan B emergency contraceptive be made available to 17 year-olds without a prescription.[ii]
It has been nearly nine years since the drugs manufacturer first applied to make Plan B available over-the-counter.[iii] An FDA advisory committee of scientists, researchers, and experts overwhelmingly voted to do so in 2001, Despite this vote, the FDA dragged its heels for five years until August of 2006, when it finally approved partial over-the-counter status for Plan B.[iv] That decision, however, was overly restrictive; not only did it require a prescription for all women under the age of 18, it also required that the product be held behind the counter and that pharmacy staff check the age of all women who purchased Plan B to ensure they were over 18.  
“Having Plan B be available over the counter for more women makes good public health sense and shows that public health is once again leading the way,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “This ruling was a huge victory not just for women’s health but for all those who believe that the FDA’s decisions should be based on science and facts, rather than political and ideological considerations,” continued Smith.

[i] Noam N. Levey, “Morning-after pill to be available to 17-year-olds over counter,” Los Angeles Times, 23 April 2009, accessed 12 May 2009, <,0,1563712.story?track=rss>.

[ii] Rob Stein, “17-Year-Olds to Gain Access to Plan B Pill,” The Washington Post, (23 April 2009), accessed 4 May 2009, <>.

[iii] U.S. District Court Dismisses Lawsuit against FDA over Nonprescription Sales of Plan B, SIECUS, accessed on 3 April 2009, <http://www.siecus.local/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.showFeature&FeatureID=1140&varuniqueuserid=86973283152>.

[iv] Ibid.