President Barack Obama said late Thursday he was comfortable with the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to lower the age limit for buying the so-called “morning-after” pill without a prescription.
During a news conference in Mexico, where he is traveling for a few days, the president said the FDA’s decision to allow girls as young as 15 to buy the drug was based on “solid scientific evidence.” The administration blocked FDA efforts in 2011 to eliminate age restrictions altogether. That decision was based in part on Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius’ assertion that girls as young as 11, who are able to get pregnant, are not ready to make a decision about emergency contraception on their own.
The “morning-after” pill, marketed under brand names like Ella and Plan B, works by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg or causing an early abortion. It is currently sold from behind pharmacy counters and can only be purchased by women 17 and older. The new FDA regulations would move the drug to store shelves and make cashiers responsible for checking buyers’ identification.
But since teens don’t normally get their first I.D. card until they learn how to drive, implementing the new age restriction might be practically impossible.
Of course, it might not be necessary at all, depending on the outcome of a New York case challenging any age restrictions. Last month, a judge ruled all age restrictions must be lifted. Earlier this week, the U.S. Justice Department decided to appeal that ruling.
Pro-abortion activists decried the decision and labeled the president a hypocrite for what could be seen as a softening stance on his support for abortion. But a White House official later insisted the Justice Department had acted independently in deciding to appeal.