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Justice Dept. files appeal in morning-after case

Morning After Pill

By Steve Brusk and Chelsea J. Carter

(CNN) — The U.S. Justice Department filed a notice of appeal Wednesday over a federal judge’s ruling that directed the Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after birth control pill available to females of all ages without a prescription.

The government also filed a motion for a temporary stay of the FDA’s approval on Tuesday of the availability of the Plan B One-Step emergency contraception pill without a prescription for ages 15 and older.

In April, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception, namely the morning-after pill, available to females of any age, without a prescription. This week’s FDA announcement, which pertains to an application from Teva Women’s Health, Inc., is not related to that, the FDA said.

Even so, the federal government said in its motion that the FDA’s approval makes the emergency contraceptive available “without significant point-of-sale restrictions.”

The key ingredient in Plan B is the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel, which can prevent fertilization or, if an egg has been fertilized, prevent it from embedding in the uterus.

Korman’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit launched by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The group was seeking to expand access to all brands of the morning-after pill over the counter, such as Plan B One-Step and Next Choice, so that females of all ages would be able to purchase them without a prescription.

Supporters of the ruling called it a landmark decision, while opponents raised concerns about safeguards being eliminated.

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood called on the Obama administration to allow access to the morning-after pill to be expanded.

“Studies show that emergency contraception is a safe and effective form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of unprotected sex, and research also shows that teens are as likely as adults to use emergency contraception correctly,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated.”

Emergency contraceptives are intended for use within 72 hours after sex but are most effective if taken within 24 hours.

Many developed countries require a prescription for oral contraceptives, including Canada and most of Europe, but other countries sell the pill without a prescription even formally or informally.

CNN’s Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

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