Just when you thought we were going to take a big step forward with broadening access to emergency contraception, the U.S. attorney's office swooped in like a hawk stealing someone's poor, trembling chihuahua with an announcement that it would appeal a federal judge's decision to make Plan B-One Step and similar emergency birth control bills available to consumers of all ages.
On April 5, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman, an outspoken critic of the way government health officials have handled the morning after pill, ordered that levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives like Plan B One-Step be made available in 30 days. With that over-the-counter date fast-approaching, government lawyers are hoping to pump the brakes on Korman's ruling. In papers filed with the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, government lawyers have asked the court to overturn Korman's order, and also requested that Korman stay his order until the appeal is resolved.
The Los Angeles Times explains the rationale behind the appeal:
In Wednesday's court filing, government attorneys said the appeal was justified because it was up to the FDA, not the court, to determine how drugs were sold.
"The public interest will not be served by reclassification of drugs as non-prescription by order of a court, without appropriate agency decision-making procedures being followed," wrote Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
"A stay of the court's order will prevent public uncertainty regarding the status of the drugs at issue here pending the government's appeal to the second circuit," she said.
Nancy Northrup, Chief Executive for the Center for Reproductive Rights (the plaintiff in this case), expressed frustration with the appeal, saying that the government would be limiting access for women to a very important drug:
Women who urgently need emergency contraception have been delayed in getting it or denied access entirely for more than a decade because of the political maneuverings of the last two presidential administrations.
Perhaps the FDA's announcement that it was lowering the minimum age for consumers to buy the pill from 17 to 15 (with an ID, of course!) should have tipped us off to the fact that Korman's ruling was going to hit some speed bumps. Now, thanks to a tangle of political maneuvering and bureaucratic hair-splitting, young women are watching their access to Plan B possibly slip away.
Image via Getty, Justin Sullivan