Population Matters

Victory for Women

April 8th, 2013


In a victory for women and women’s health, a federal judge last Friday ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove restrictions on women’s access to emergency contraception. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman ruled that the FDA must make the most popular forms of emergency contraception available over the counter and without an age restriction.  The decision overturns a policy that restricts access to emergency contraception by requiring that women under 17 obtain a prescription from a physician, and requiring women 17 and older obtain it from pharmacies or health clinics with government-issued identification.

In striking down the restrictions, the judge ruled that when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped in to implement these restrictions it was “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”

Emergency contraception reduces the risk of pregnancy after contraceptive failure or unprotected sex up to 120 hours after, but is most effective in the first 24 hours.  It is important, therefore, that women obtain access to emergency contraception in a timely manner.  The current restrictions often led to confusion and human error, effectively denying many women access to emergency contraception, particularly young women and those without any government- issued identification.  By making emergency contraception available over the counter to all women regardless of age it will ensure that women have better access to emergency contraception.  Costs for some women may still pose a barrier, but the court’s decision is still a resounding victory for women and women’s health.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

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