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Fed judge: Morning-after pill should be available to all ages (Detroit News)

Published April 6, 2013, by The Detroit News.

By Lauran Neergaard and Larry Neumeister, Associated Press

Published: 04.06.13| Updated: 04.06.13

Washington — In a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration, a federal judge ruled Friday that age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill are "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable" and must end within 30 days.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York means consumers of any age could buy emergency contraception without a prescription — instead of women first having to prove they're 17 or older, as they do today. And it could allow Plan B One-Step to move out from behind pharmacy counters to the store counters.

The Justice Department didn't say whether it would appeal.

"We are reviewing the decision and evaluating the government's options," said F. Franklin Amanat, a lawyer for the government.

The ruling drew mixed reaction in Metro Detroit.

Barb Yagley, a member of the local anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life, said her concern is young girls will have access to a powerfully strong medication that endangers their growing bodies.

"The studies I've seen show an increase in STDs (for users)," Yagley said. "These are super steroids young girls who are still growing are putting in their bodies."

Yagley said by allowing young girls to buy the pills they are "completely cutting the parents out of what their kids are doing."

"Even the (Obama) administration doesn't agree with it," Yagley added.

Planned Parenthood officials say the group's aim is to prevent unintended pregnancies but in a safe and effective way.

"As a parent, I know that what scares adults the most about this ruling is the idea that a 14-year-old girl might have access to emergency contraception," said Lori Lamerand, CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan, said in a statement Friday. "But if a 14-year-old girl is already having unprotected sex, would it be better to wait to see if she gets pregnant, or to immediately prevent any pregnancy from occurring?"

Lamerand added emergency contraception "is a safe, effective form of birth control that works by postponing ovulation … "

It's the latest twist in a decade-long push for easier access to emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.

The Food and Drug Administration actually was preparing to lift all age limits on Plan B One-Step in late 2011 when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an unprecedented move, overruled her own scientists. Sebelius said some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children but shouldn't be able to buy the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own. President Barack Obama said he supported the decision, also citing concern for young girls.

That move shocked women's groups — and in his ruling, Korman blasted Sebelius for what he called an "obviously political" decision.

"This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds," Korman wrote, saying the number of young girls using such drugs "is likely to be minuscule."

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