The Food and Drug Administration announced today that the so-called “morning-after” pill will now be available over-the-counter without a prescription to girls as young as 15.
The drug, sold under brand names like Plan B and Ella and marketed as a method of “emergency” contraception, prevents implantation of a fertilized egg or causes an early abortion. According to today’s FDA ruling, drugstores will be able to stock the drug on store shelves just like condoms, but buyers would have to prove their age at the cash register.
Previously, the government had required a prescription for girls 16 and younger. And in 2011, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disregarded a recommendation by the FDA to make the drug available over-the-counter—a decision that surprised many given the Obama administration’s strong support for abortion.
Although the drug has previously been kept behind the pharmacy counter, government regulators approved dispensing it in a vending machine in at least one location—Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
A federal judge ruled earlier this month that there should be no age restrictions for the drug, giving the FDA 30 days to act. The FDA said today’s decision was not a result of the judge’s ruling.