The latest development in the Obama administration's unexpected fight over emergency contraception came to an end as it suffered a legal blow in its attempt to limit access to the morning-after pill known as "Plan B." Judge Edward Jorman, of Brooklyn, refused to suspend the ruling that he made in April that allows the emergency contraceptive to be sold to women and girls of all ages without a prescription.
This rebuff is the latest in a long battle that the Obama administration has engaged in with a variety of figures, from the Food and Drugs Administration to the court system in an attempt to restrict access to the morning after pill. The resistance has puzzled many of the Democratic constituencies, who wonder why the Obama administration is fighting so hard on the issue.
The morning after pill is a levonorgestrel-based contraceptive drug that has a goal of stopping ovulation to prevent fertilization. For a women at the point in her menstrual cycle that is fertile, Plan B basically tells the body to cut that out, signaling that instead of being at the point where an egg is to be released the body should act as though an egg has already released. The body stops ovulation and sperm and egg will not meet.
Although called the morning after pill, it should actually be taken as soon as possible, as sperm can stay in the vagina for several days. This mean that even if you had unprotected sex several days before ovulation, there is still a chance you may become pregnant.
The morning after pill is not an abortifacient, like mifepristone, known as RU-486 or the so-called "abortion-pill." It will not terminate an existing pregnancy. The FDA unanimously ruled that the morning after pill was safe for women of all ages in 2011 and should be offered over the counter. However, in the first time in history, the Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, overruled the FDA's decision outraging many medical experts and women's health groups. Sebelius limited over-the-counter sales to women 17 and older.
A suit was immediately filed and made its way through the courts. On April 5, Judge Korman ordered the FDA to life age restrictions. The FDA approved an application by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd that would allow girls that are 15 years of age and older to buy Teva's specific product "Plan B One-Stop." It would be labeled as not for sale for anyone below the age of 15 and require a proof of age for any purchase.
Judge Korman struck back on Friday, refusing to stay his own decision and blasting the FDA for putting politics in front of science and health. Korman wrote in his decision for refusing the stay:
"The FDA was reversed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the same day in a decision that was politically motivated and that, even without regard to the Secretary's motives, was so unpersuasive as to call into question her good faith."
Commentators have been baffled by the Obama administration insistence of going against the medical community and parts of its base. The original decision occurred in December of 2011, where many speculated that it was a move to reach out to more socially conservative voters before the 2012 election. But the administration has continued sticking to its guns even after winning the election, making many question why Obama would want to anger his parts of his base and add to the growing list of groups disappointed in his presidency.
It remains to be seen if the Obama administration will keep charging up this hill they have repeatedly fallen off. The Department of Health and Human did not comment and neither did the Justice Department. But if past history is anything to go buy they will charge right back in the fight.