No Rx, No Age Restrictions: Obama Agrees To Comply With Federal Ruling On Morning-After Pill

Interesting that some see it as a "cave"; women, the very people who want the freedom to use this pill as they see fit, welcome the President's reversal as a nod to women's reproductive freedoms.

Interesting that some see it as a “cave”; women, the very people who can now use Plan B as they see fit, welcome the President’s reversal as a nod to women’s reproductive freedoms.

In a meaningful development for women’s rights activists and any women concerned about having control over their own reproductive decisions, the Obama administration has announced it will drop its appeal of the ruling last April by Federal District Court Judge Edward Korman, which ruled that the “morning-after” pill may be sold without prescription or restriction to women of all ages. This puts the matter of choice in the hands of women, removing barriers that many felt gave arbitrary influence to conservative, fundamentalist agendas or, more basically, made women’s heathcare a government issue.

The administration, in deciding to drop their resistance to Korman’s ruling, is proposing that the makers of Plan B (currently the most popular morning-after pill) submit a new label reflecting the fact that women of any age can now purchase it without restriction. According to a letter the Justice Department sent to the judge, the administration commented that once they receive a letter of compliance from Teva, the makers of Plan B, they will grant approval immediately. They also threw in a caveat with regard to the possibility of generic brands:

Upon receipt of this SNDA [supplemental new drug application], FDA will approve it without delay. After FDA receives and approves Teva’s supplement, we expect the sponsors of the generic versions of PBOS [Plan B One-Step] to submit appropriate amendments to their abbreviated new drug applications. If FDA grants Teva marketing exclusivity, the scope of that exclusivity may affect the labeling that could be approved for generic equivalents of PBOS.

Which means cheaper generics might be delayed. But one step at a time; this is still progress and it remains possible they will not grant Teva exclusivity; more to come on that.

There is also a two-pill product that petitioners have been fighting to take out of prescription-only status; that was also addressed in this latest action from the administration:

In accordance with this Court’s order and as explained below, FDA will not at this time take steps to change the approval status of the two-pill Plan B or its generic equivalents.

Despite the disappointment over that non-decision decision, there was applause from the expected corners of the ring. From women’s groups:

Annie Tummino, lead plaintiff and co-ordinator of the National Women’s Liberation, said: “This decision by the administration affirms what feminists have been fighting for all along: the morning-after pill should be available to females of all ages, on the shelf at any convenience store, just like aspirin or condoms.” The Guardian

Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards, in a statement, called the government’s decision to drop the appeal “a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity.” The Huffington Post

On the social/political side, the news was met along expected agenda/party lines:

…Opponents of easy access to the morning-after pill, such as the anti-abortion Family Research Council, criticized the government for not sticking with its decision to appeal. “We’re very concerned and disappointed at the same time because what we see here is the government caving to political pressure instead of putting first the health and safety of girls (and) parental rights,” said Anna Higgins, director of the council’s Center for Human Dignity. The Huffington Post

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who had been pressuring the FDA to approve the pill for non-prescription sale for most of the last decade, said: “After far too long of a delay, science has prevailed.” NPR

For the women and girls who will actually make use of the pill, the legal right to make their own decisions about how best to manage their bodies is what this is all about. And this week that precious right scored a big win. As it should be.