The U.S. Justice Department is appealing a judge’s decision to remove all age restrictions on the so-called “morning-after” pill, signaling the Obama administration’s intention to continue opposing young teens’ unfettered access to the drug.
The decision to appeal comes just one day after the Food and Drug Administration said the drug should be available over-the-counter without a prescription to girls as young as 15. The Health and Human Services Department previously vetoed a similar attempt by the FDA to make the drug, sold under brand names like Plan B and Ella, more widely available.
Women must now be 17 or older to purchase the drug without a prescription and must request it from a pharmacist who is required to check I.D. A New York judge ruled last month that the government needed to make the drug available to anyone, regardless of age.
The administration’s decision shocked and angered pro-abortion activists, who called President Barack Obama a hypocrite.
“President Obama should practice what he preaches,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. On Friday, the president spoke to the annual meeting of Planned Parenthood, lauding the group’s support for women making their own health decisions. He told the group’s supporters he would stand with them to fight any attempt to curtail their efforts.
In its filing, the Justice Department said U.S. District Judge Edward Korman exceeded his authority in issuing his ruling. White House officials said the FDA and Justice Department had acted independently of the White House in deciding how to proceed.
Current and former White House aides said Obama’s approach to the issue has been heavily influenced by his experience as the father of two school-age daughters. The president and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have also questioned whether there’s enough data available to show the morning-after pill is safe and appropriate for younger girls.
When Sebelius blocked the FDA’s recommendation to lift all age limits in 2011, she said although some girls as young as 11 could physically get pregnant, they shouldn’t be able to buy the drug without input from adults.
The various forms of the drug work either by preventing a fertilized egg’s implantation or causing an early abortion.