Yesterday, feminists won their 10-year battle to make emergency contraception (aka the morning-after-pill) available over the counter without age restriction: the Obama administration announced it would drop its appeal of a federal court order that the FDA make the drug available for nonprescription use for all ages. In April, Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in the Plaintiffs’ favor in Tummino v. Hamburg that there was no scientific basis for the Obama administration to continue to restrict access to emergency contraception. Judge Korman ordered that it be made available to women and girls “without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within thirty days.” The Obama administration appealed that decision, but yesterday decided to cut its losses, fearing they would lose the appeal and “drastically elevate the debate over the politically delicate issue for Mr. Obama.”
According to Andrea Costello, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund Senior Staff Attorney and lead attorney for the National Women’s Liberation Plaintiffs, “The provision of emergency contraception without restriction is a landmark victory for reproductive justice. We are going to make sure that the government does indeed comply with the Court’s Order. The denial of full access to the Morning-After Pill has been an outrageous political decision and wholly without scientific basis – under both the Bush and Obama administrations. In recent days, we passed the 48th anniversary of the landmark birth control case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which recognized the constitutionally protected right of women to decide whether or not to have a child. It’s about time that the Obama administration recognized that access to all forms of birth control, including the Morning-After Pill, are essential for women to not just have this right, but exercise it.”
Annie Tummino, lead Plaintiff and Coordinator of National Women’s Liberation, said, “This decision by the Administration affirms what feminists have been fighting for all along – the Morning-After Pill should be available to females of all ages, on the shelf at any convenience store, just like aspirin or condoms. Women and girls should have the absolute right to control our bodies without having to ask a doctor or a pharmacist for permission.”
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood said: “This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity.”
The Reproductive Health Technologies Project, whose activism on behalf of emergency contraception I describe in my book, The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States, announced, “This victory is long overdue! We are now one giant step closer to the day when Plan B will be available on store shelves to all women. We finally see light at the end of the tunnel in our decade long fight to give all women access to a safe, reliable, back up contraceptive option.”
However, Jodi Jacobson at RHRealityCheck says that this decision only covers Plan B OneStep and “does not include generic forms of emergency contraception, pointing to the the next front in the effort to ensure universal access to EC, as affordability of the method is critical to access.”
So the struggle continues, but it’s a start.