Obama Birth Control: Plan B Court Decision Appealed By Justice Dept.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an appeal on Wednesday in response to a federal judge’s decision to direct the Food and Drug Administration to lift all age limits for over-the-counter morning after birth control access, claiming the court lacked proper authority. This decision comes just one day after the agency’s announcement that it would lower the age limit for over-the-counter access to the morning after pill from 17 to 15 years of age.

In an April 5 ruling, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York directed the FDA to lift all age limits on Plan B One-step and its cheaper generic version. Today's federal pushback on the ruling comes as a surprise to those who see the appeal as a step back in the Obama administration’s support for greater access to birth control.

The FDA is insisting the district judge lacks subject matter authority on the matter, claiming in their appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that, “A district court does not have jurisdiction to review such agency action,” and requesting a stay on the issue to delay any federal compliance with the court's ruling.

Criticism is already brewing, as the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights has issued a statement saying, “We are deeply disappointed that just days after President Obama proclaimed his commitment to women's reproductive rights, his administration has decided once again to deprive women of their right to obtain emergency contraception without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has quickly distanced the president from the matter, claiming the President “did not weigh in on this decision” because the FDA is an “independent agency.”

Still, Carney underlined the president’s support for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who vetoed in 2011 a recommendation that Plan B One-Step be available over the counter to women and girls of all ages based on the “inadequacy of data” available regarding the implications of increased access to the drug for younger girls. 

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Rachel George

Rachel is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics. She holds a BA in Politics from Princeton and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard. Her interests include journalism, U.S. foreign policy, human rights, and international law.

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