Judge Finally Rules the Morning After Pill Should Be Available to Everyone

In a huge victory for science and women’s rights, Judge Edward Kormen ruled on Friday that it’s time to lift restrictions on the sale of levonorgestrol-based emergency contraception like Plan B. The decision marks a huge landmark in the ongoing wrangling over the access to emergency contraceptives and the war on women’s rights in the United States; for the first time, women and teens will be able to enter a pharmacy and buy emergency birth control over the counter without a prescription.

The battle really started to get hot in 2011, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it planned to allow unrestricted sales of emergency birth control based on the scientific evidence. The agency found that there were no compelling reasons to limit access, and that there were in fact numerous reasons to make it easier to get, not least of which is that the pill needs to be taken within a very narrow time window, making any potential barrier a serious problem.

However, special interests and politics started entering the race, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s plans, triggering a lawsuit from women’s rights groups. They argued that her decision imperiled the health of women and girls, and was clearly tainted by political factors; birth control is a hot potato in the United States, and controversy swirls around emergency contraception, which some political conservatives think is an abortifacient.

In fact, emergency contraception works almost entirely by preventing ovulation, which means egg and sperm never meet. Even under the most strict definition of “pregnancy” used by conservatives, some of whom seem to believe that a fertilized egg that hasn’t even implanted yet is morally equivalent to an actual living baby, a nonfertilized egg floating around in the uterus is not a pregnancy. When taken at the right time, emergency contraception ensures that egg and sperm stay firmly separated, thus ensuring that a pregnancy never happens.

While researchers originally theorized that emergency contraception might also interfere with the uterine lining to prevent implantation, further research has disproved that claim. A recent study in Contraception, for example, demonstrated that emergency contraception was only effective when taken before fertilization.  In other words, even if you believe fertilized egg=baby, EC isn’t an abortifacient, because if the egg is fertilized, it’s already too late. (However, only 50% of fertilized eggs even manage to implant, and fewer still make it through the early weeks of pregnancy.)

With 2012 marking unprecedented attacks on women’s rights when it came to accessing birth control, this court case was of particular interest to a number of activists who thought it might be a sign for the direction of the political winds. Judge Kormen’s decision was decisive, and it contained some important comments. He didn’t just rule that EC should be available to all women OTC without a prescription: he also indicted the role of politics in science and medicine.

“The FDA bowed to political pressure emanating from the White House and departed from agency policy,” he wrote in the decision. He also took on the scaremongering used to suggest that OTC availability of emergency contraception would lead to rampant pediatric abuse: “the invocation of the adverse effect of Plan B on 11-year-olds is an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their right to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.”

His decisive statement was great news, but the battle is not over, women’s rights groups warn. Cost still remains an issue, and there is a concern that costs for emergency contraception may spike in response to the ruling, making it difficult for low-income women and teens to access it. Furthermore, programs like Medicaid might balk at paying for emergency contraception once it goes on sale over the counter, which would be a serious burden to women relying on these programs to help them pay for health care.

Now more than ever, it’s important to defend the right to access safe, affordable birth control.

Thanks to all our wonderful Care2 members who have signed several petitions on this issue, including this one with more than 13,000 signatures, which helped to make this a success for women.

Related posts:

Get Your Politics Out of My Birth Control

UN Declares Birth Control a Universal Human Right

California Women Can Now Get Birth Control Without a Doctor

Photo credit: S. MiRK

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Dennis D.
Dennis D.2 years ago

Bill R. You fool. Dr. Gosnell had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood. Thanks for playing 'Just how big of a fool are you here'

GW Cheney
G.W. Cheney2 years ago

Two things Bill R. First, this comment page is about a contraception pill, so, rant about abortion and no one hears you, as usual. Secondly, yes if you are the male in the equation you most certainly are equally responsible for the results of unprotected sex. The point is that mistakes happen. Lives should not be ruined over a mistake made because of lack of foresight. Teens have had sex since the first human was born on this planet. There is a reason sex feels good, to encourage frequent sex and hopefully create many progeny. Fifty thousand years later, it still feels good but having progeny has become problematic. Unless given time to acquire skills needed to support ones self, let alone a family, this progeny will be the responsibility of everyone but the parents to support.

Since the trend in this country is to put our fingers in our ears shouting lalalala when a discussion of appropriate sexual behaviour education comes our way, we have yet to grow up ourselves let alone have the hard conversations with our children. Our children don't learn about the reality of their bodies, sex, and what happens, good or bad, from their families anymore. More's the pity. So we put off on to our public education system, but, being too squeamish to take responsibility ourselves we are too afraid to let the schools tell it like it is. Perhaps because in our heads we think the more you know the more you will do. At least we think that of ourselves so why have any faith in the integrity

Bill Reese
Bill Reese2 years ago

I just read the following: "and its about time! people are getting pregnant due to the lack of access" and had to wonder where that person got that idea. I remember the girls might say she got pregnant off the toilet seat, but my mother always taught me that it took a male and female to make a child and if I was the male, it was my responsitbility to raise the child, not just kill it and throw the child away.
We are seeing what planned parent hood has been doing with their sissors and toilets, how disgusting and I hope the so called Doctor gets life in prision with no parole.

Leia P.
Leia P.2 years ago

so wonderful

Ruth R.
Ruth R.2 years ago

It is much easier than women going and having an abortion, and much better for the women.
If the following is true than people with certain moral standards will have less to worry about.
"When taken at the right time, emergency contraception ensures that egg and sperm stay firmly separated, thus ensuring that a pregnancy never happens."

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/judge-finally-rules-the-morning-after-pill-should-be-available-to-everyone.html#ixzz2RSK4ZmYr

Maybe there need to some articles on male-insecurity, and how to make the world better for men, women, and children.

Deb L.
Deb L.2 years ago

It's about time!!

Dennis D.
Dennis D.2 years ago

Maddi M. **sigh** the days when people minded their own business...

Madeline Isho
Past Member 2 years ago

sigh... the days when girls and women had self respect & waited for marriage.

Joanne S.
Jo S.2 years ago


Noreen Niamath
Noreen Niamath2 years ago

Great. Why spend the time and money to create the tech and then not put it to use!