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Justice Department Weighing Whether To Appeal Federal Judge's Ruling on Emergency Contraception

Justice Department Weighing Whether To Appeal Federal Judge's Ruling on Emergency Contraception

April 8, 2013 — The Obama administration is deciding whether to appeal a federal judge's ruling that lifted the age restriction on nonprescription sales of emergency contraceptives, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Lederman/Neergaard, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/5).

Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman came in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of individuals and other reproductive justice groups that sought to lift age and point-of-sale restrictions on EC. Physicians and reproductive-rights advocates have stressed that scientific evidence supports removing the restrictions, which require people younger than age 17 obtain a prescription to buy the drugs and those 17 or older present proof of age to purchase them without a prescription.

Although FDA in 2011 opted to approve nonprescription sale of EC to people of all ages, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made an unprecedented move to overrule the decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/5).

A decision to appeal Korman's ruling could reignite a nationwide debate over women's reproductive health, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports. Further, observers note that an appeal likely would rile many liberal groups and parts of Obama's political base, and even if the decision to appeal might please social conservatives, that would not necessarily help Obama with his second-term initiatives (Lederman/Neergaard, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/6).

Editorials, Opinion Piece Comment on Plan B Ruling

Over the weekend, two editorials and an opinion piece praised the federal judge's decision to permit the sale of EC to people of all ages without a prescription. Summaries appear below.

~ Newark Star-Ledger: "Kudos to the federal judge who called the Obama administration out" for its "politically motivated" and "scientifically unjustified" refusal to allow nonprescription EC access, a Star-Ledger editorial writes, adding that the policy "was based on worries about re-election, not women's welfare." The editorial states that there "was never any real justification to overrule the FDA recommendation," noting that EC is "among the safest drugs sold over the counter." It concludes, "Our government policy should be about preventing unwanted pregnancies, not political blowback" (Newark Star-Ledger, 4/8).

~ New York Times: The federal judge's ruling was a "well-deserved rebuke to a politically motivated decision that overrode sound science and the health needs of young girls in order to placate political opponents of emergency contraception," a New York Times editorial states. The editorial adds, "The fewer barriers women and girls face in obtaining the pill quickly, the better" (New York Times, 4/5).

~ Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now": Friday's decision "is an unvarnished victory for reproductive freedom at a time when its opponents are pushing hard in the opposite direction," Los Angeles Times columnist Abcarian writes. It also was "a vindication of sorts for folks who have been surprised, and angry, about how the Obama administration has rolled over on a number of reproductive rights issues," she adds. Abcarian concludes, "Though it's easy to get all twisted up in the abortion debate, it's important to remember that Plan B prevents most pregnancies when taken within 72 hours of intercourse," adding, "Being able to get it over-the-counter is very good news for girls" (Abcarian, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/6).