Although EC has been available — behind pharmacy counters with proof of ID — to those 18+ since 2006 and to those 17+ since 2009, it remains inaccessible for many. For example, women must approach the pharmacist and request EC; should the pharmacist’s religious beliefs conflict with providing Plan B, s/he may refuse to hand it over, under the protection of conscience clauses. And let’s not forget those under 17 who will be flat-out denied, and those (of any age) who simply can’t afford its high cost.
Thankfully, The Center for Reproductive Rights has taken the FDA to court over these restrictions. In March 2009, a U.S. District Court judge found that the FDA’s prior decision to limit access to EC was based on politics rather than science and ordered the agency to reconsider its decision. However, the FDA has ignored the court order, leading the Center to take them back to court in November 2010. Still, no restrictions have been lifted. Instead, the FDA required the manufacturer of Plan B One Step (a brand of EC) to submit a new application for review.
After two years of the FDA dragging its feet, on December 13, 2011, a Federal court in New York will hear oral argument on the Center’s motion for contempt against the FDA for ignoring the court’s ruling. While the Center will be arguing away in court, we need to take action too! The FDA needs to know that it is required to obey the law and end ALL restrictions on EC, once and for all!
To that end, be sure to sign the Center’s petition to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the FDA. All women, regardless of age, deserve equal access to EC.