Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. Moves to Defend Age Limit on Contraceptive ; Appeal Is Filed on Ruling That Lets Girls under 15 Obtain Morning- after Pill

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. Moves to Defend Age Limit on Contraceptive ; Appeal Is Filed on Ruling That Lets Girls under 15 Obtain Morning- after Pill

Article excerpt

Appealing a judge's decision to allow access to over-the-counter contraception to girls of all ages underlines the Obama administration's moderate views on abortion.

The Obama administration is moving to keep girls under 15 from having over-the-counter access to morning-after pills, as the Justice Department filed a notice to appeal a judge's order that would make the drug available without a prescription for girls and women of all ages.

The appeal on Wednesday reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama's administration to block the drug's maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.

The Justice Department's decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, antiabortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. But the decision was criticized by advocates for women's reproductive health and abortion rights who cite years of scientific research saying the drug is safe and effective for all ages.

"Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated," Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.

In December 2011, the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, saying there was not enough data to prove it would be safe. In doing so, Ms. Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had moved, based on scientific research, to lift all age restrictions.

Last month, Judge Edward R. Korman of United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York criticized that decision as overtly political and ordered the administration to make the contraceptive widely available. The Justice Department's appeal will not say at what age girls should have access to over-the-counter morning-after pills.

Instead, it will contend that Judge Korman did not have the authority to order the F.D.A. to take a specific action and should have sent the issue back to the agency for further action. …

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