Wednesday 10:03 p.m.   The federal judge reviewing the issue of women’s access to various versions of the emergency contraceptive “Plan B” on Wednesday evening approved the Obama administration’s plan to make the new one-pill version available in brand-name form for women of all ages without a prescription and without any retail restrictions.  The judge was not entirely satisfied with the administration approach, but said it did enough to comply with his April 5 order.  It is now up to the FDA to make the final arrangements for access to “Plan B One-Step.”  The post below appeared earlier this evening.


 Women’s rights groups on Wednesday urged a federal judge to turn down the Obama administration’s compromise plan on access to the emergency contraceptive, “Plan B,” and to order immediate availability of a cheaper version of the drug.  The administration approach, the new filing argued, does not satisfy the commands that the judge issued last month.

Under a proposal the Food and Drug Administration made on Monday, the newer, brand-name version — the one-pill “Plan B One-Step”– would be available, perhaps soon, to women of all ages without prescriptions, proof of age, or other retail-store restrictions.  But the older, two-pill “Plan B,” available only in cheaper generic versions, would still be available only to women age seventeen and older.

In their response, the groups advocating unlimited access to all versions of the drug contended that no part of the government’s planned approach is sufficient.   There are no details on when the one-pill version will actually be available, and there is no assurance that generic versions of that will be available anytime soon, the groups argued.  The continuing restrictions on the two-pill variety simply are not justified as necessary to protect the health of those who use it, the document added.

Senior U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman has been in a running battle with the government — first the George W. Bush administration and lately the Obama administration — over access to contraceptives that have the potential for preventing pregnancy if taken promptly after unprotected sexual intercourse.  The government has been resisting lowering the age limit for some versions of the drugs, on the theory that younger girls would not know how safely to deal with the drug.

If Judge Korman does not go along with the advocacy groups’ new demand that he clear the way for earlier access to all forms of “Plan B,” it seems likely that the FDA will continue to press an appeal it now has pending at the Second Circuit Court, seeking to challenge Judge Korman’s earlier orders on “Plan B” access.   The FDA, in its filing on Monday, said it would drop that appeal, provided the judge went along with its new proposal.

If that happens, the courthouse battle presumably would continue, raising anew the prospect that it might eventually reach the Supreme Court.

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Featured

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, UPDATE: Judge clears “Plan B” access, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 12, 2013, 5:18 PM),