The United States government has officially lowered the age in which a woman is permitted to purchase the morning-after pill without prescription from 17 15.
The decision was finalized by the Food and Drug Administration as an attempt to appease a court-imposed deadline that would lift all age restrictions on the drug.
Plan B will also now be sold on drugstore shelves next to condoms, spermicides and other women’s health products. It was formerly only sold behind pharmacy counters.
Customers will still have to prove their age at the cash register.
The aforementioned order to end age restrictions on Plan B was imposed by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York. A women’s group also filed a lawsuit over the age limits. But the FDA claims that this decision was independent of the court case.
The women’s group that sued said this change is not enough and will continue to fight for an elimination of age restrictions on the morning after-pill.
Lowering the age limit “may reduce delays for some young women but it does nothing to address the significant barriers that far too many women of all ages will still find if they arrive at the drugstore without identification,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The FDA said that Plan B will now be packaged with a product code that prompts the cashier to verify a customer’s age. Anyone who cannot provide a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport won’t be allowed to complete the purchase.
“These are daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops women are forced to jump through in time-sensitive circumstances, and we will continue our battle in court to remove these arbitrary restrictions on emergency contraception for all women,” Northup said.
Social conservatives opposed any decrease in restrictions because they believe parents and medical professionals should be heavily involved in every decision to purchase Plan B.
But many are convinced that the only reason it has taken this long to make any changes is because politics trumps science all the time in America.
“It makes no sense that kids need parental permission to take aspirin at school, but they’re free to buy and administer Plan B,’ “Penny Nance, CEO and president of the Concerned Women of America, said in a statement.
The FDA said that Teva, the company that makes the pill, has in fact provided data proving that girls as young as 15 could understand how Plan B works and use it responsibly without the help of a health-care provider. Teva plans to conduct a consumer-education program and is willing to audit stores that don’t follow the age requirement.
The FDA said that its decision only applies to Plan B One-Step and not to generic versions of the pill which would remain behind pharmacy counters, only available to those over 17.
Roughly half of the reported pregnancies reported each year are unintended. The morning-after pill can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89% if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. But the pill is obviously most efficient if taken in the first 24 hours after intercourse.