Alongside Next Choice, a generic drug sold behind the counter, a prescription-only drug, is another type of emergency contraception. According to experts, it is able to reduce chances of pregnancy by up to 89% if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Although not effective for women who are already pregnant, where a fertilised egg is embedded in the wall of the uterus, It has been labelled as “abortion drug” by the critics for its role in preventing ovulation and fertilisation of an egg.
Block on access to morning-after pill
In 2011, the move to limit access to the drug by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius baffled the agency. Although it will be available behind the counter in pharmacies, young girls below 17 years old were required to possess a prescription to buy the drug. In addition to that, President Obama did support this move. Being a father of two daughters, he said that it’s only common sense, adding that most parents would probably feel the same way.
Although Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), said that the decision was unusual and there is sufficient and reasonable, well-supported science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective, Republicans praised the move. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley stated that there is lack of scientific evidence that it’s safe to allow minors access to this drug.
Battle to make emergency contraception universally available
In April 2013, New York Judge Korman ordered the government to make the morning after pill available over the counter to all girls within 30 days, striking down the FDA rule requiring girls 16 and under to obtain a prescription for the morning after pill, saying that the restriction had been arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. Judge Korman also criticised the Obama administration’s justification as an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their rights to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.
Days before the deadline to comply with a New York district judge’s order, FDA approved the pill without a prescription for girls aged 15 and older, requiring proof-of-age. The reproductive rights groups welcomed the FDA’s lowering of the age limit but called for fuller access. On the other hand, the justice department had fought against the judge’s order seeking to lift current age and sales limits.
United States approves over-the-counter sale of morning after pill
After months of back-and-forth legal battles, the age limit on morning-after pill is finally lifted. Women’s Health advocates had pushed for easier access to next-day birth control for more than a decade. According to FDA drug chief, Dr Janet Woodcock, this step has the potential to decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the US.