Plan B Age Restrictions: Court Lifts Limitations, But Unlimited Access Remains Unattainable


The morning-after pill (a.k.a. Plan B) is now available over-the-counter for women of all ages after a ruling on Wednesday in a federal appeals court in New York. This decision means the two-pill version of Plan B (not the one-pill version, which isn’t really any different) is available for check-out without proof of identification or prescription.

Restrictions of access to emergency contraceptives have been the subject of political debate and legal proceedings for the past several years. Most recently, in April, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled the morning-after pill should be available to women “of child-bearing age” without prescription.

The White House appealed Korman’s decision and requested the effect of the ruling be suspended until the appeals court presented its judgment. Korman denied the appeal and called the government’s restriction of sales “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent.”

Wednesday was a “historic day for women’s health,” says Nancy Northup, president and CEO of Center for Reproductive Rights. “Finally, after more than a decade of politically motivated delays, women will no longer have to endure intrusive, onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions to get emergency contraception.”

Obama favors some age restrictions, citing the lack of studies on the morning-after pill’s effect on young women as a cause for concern. The ample research proves Plan B does less damage than aspirin for teenage girls, and it’s certainly less risky than pregnancy. It seems Obama, and many who share his view, are resistant to acknowledge the sexual activity of their young daughters, consensual or otherwise. By restricting their daughters’ access to emergency contraceptives — which they will more likely need without a proper safe sex talk and don’t-have-sex-but-if-you-do-use-a-condom condoms — more girls will be faced to decide between abortion and young motherhood.

Those in opposition to the ruling fear the lowered restrictions will provoke teens to have unprotected sex, which could lead to a rise in STIs that Plan B does not prevent. Some still assert the pill engenders an abortion, despite the fact that the contraceptive stops fertilization rather than terminating a fertilized egg. Access to the pill will be far more effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies than encouraging the sex teens are already having.

The ruling offers promising direction, but threats to unrestricted access still remain. What happens next is uncertain; one can assume the restrictions will change again in the near future. The government has two weeks to challenge the order either before the appeals court or the Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If they don’t appeal, the pill will be on the shelves in about one month.