Ladies, rejoice! For once, politicians are actually expanding access to contraceptives — sort of! Following a recent court decision – Tummino v. Hamberg – mandating that the Food and Drug Administration expand access to the morning-after pill, the government agency did just that. Yesterday, the FDA announced two major changes to purchasing the emergency contraceptive:
- It has lowered the purchasing age to 15.
- It will be available on shelves instead of behind-the-counter.
This is a much better situation than before, when the morning-after pill was only available for ages 17 and up and was only over-the-counter. Young women ages 16 or younger needed to get a prescription from a doctor, which prolonged the time they could possibly get pregnant; EC should be taken within five days of unprotected sex, preferably within the first 72 hours. The previous rules also meant that anyone asking for EC from a pharmacist could be told “no” if emergency contraception went against his or her religious beliefs to dispense it; in many states, the pharmacist would be legally protected by restricting healthcare to their customer with a “conscience clause.” No more! Now, anyone who needs it can access themselves the same way we all access condoms and other forms of contraception.
Some women’s health activists are not pleased there is still an age restriction and purchasers of an emergency contraceptive will still have to show I.D. at the register to prove their age.
This limiting factor did not please Tummino v. Hamburg plaintiff attorney, Andrea Costello. In a statement issued yesterday, she said:
“The FDA is now under pending court order to make the morning-after pill available without age restriction or identification hurdles. In the face of that order the FDA has issued an announcement that it is willfully placing these restrictions on emergency contraception. Just last week, President Obama stated, ‘When it comes to a woman’s health, no politician should get to decide what’s best for you.’ Yet he is doing exactly that. If the FDA does not comply with this court’s order, we will move for contempt.”
Despite these further age restrictions, I can’t help but be pleased to hear the news that more young women will have access to reproductive health care. In an age where women’s health is constantly being controlled by state legislatures, I’m glad to see the expansion of contraceptive availability!
Email me at Sarah.Gray@Gmail.com.