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Federal judge revives lawsuit over Plan B contraception

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday revived a six-year-old lawsuit over the Plan B emergency contraceptive [product website], but declined to hold the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] in contempt. The suit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website] in 2005 after the FDA failed to respond to a 2001 petition to make Plan B available over the counter (OTC) to women under 18, which it eventually denied in 2006. Judge Edward Korman ruled [JURIST report] in 2009 that the FDA must make Plan B available to 17-year-olds without a prescription and reconsider whether the contraceptive should be available over the counter (OTC) to women under the age of 17. When the FDA did not take action, the CRR asked the court to hold the agency in contempt. On Monday, the FDA issued a decision not to make Plan B available OTC to women under 17. At a hearing that had already been scheduled for Tuesday, Korman decided not to hold the FDA in contempt but did allow the CRR to reopen its lawsuit [Reuters report]. The CRR announced Tuesday that it plans to move forward [press release] with its challenge.

Tuesday's ruling comes just days after Department of Health and Human Services [official website] Director Kathleen Sebelius blocked an FDA recommendation [press release] to make Plan B available OTC to women under 17. Sebelius' decision, based on concerns for the lack of data on the effects for young women, was backed by US President Barack Obama. Also Tuesday, a group of 15 US Senators wrote to Sebelius [text] expressing disappointment and seeking the specific rationale and data that went into the decision.

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