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Federal judge declines to delay order on emergency contraception

A New York federal judge on Friday declined to delay [opinion PDF] his order that emergency contraception be available over the counter (OTC) to girls of all ages. Judge Edward Korman of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] issued the order [JURIST report] last month, citing a lack of scientific evidence to support age limits. Korman wrote Friday about the political motivations [NYT report] behind the law, characterizing arguments from Health and Human Services [official website] Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [official profile] as "frivolous" and "silly." Government lawyers had requested a stay on Korman's order, but he agreed only to delay its enforcement until Monday to allow them to take their request to the appeals court.

The Plan B contraceptive has been the subject of considerable legislative and judicial activity since winning approval [JURIST report] from the FDA in 2006. In 2009 the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York overturned [JURIST report] the FDA's decision to limit Plan B to women 18 years or older. The court ordered the FDA to make Plan B available to 17-year-olds without a prescription. In March 2008 a federal judge in the US District Court of the District of Columbia dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit brought by a physicians' group against the FDA seeking to overturn approval of the OTC sale of Plan B. In November 2007 a federal judge suspended [JURIST report] a Washington state law that would have required pharmacists to dispense the Plan B pill. In October 2007 Illinois pharmacists considered a settlement [JURIST report] to a dispute over a state law that would have required them to dispense the Plan B pill regardless of their moral objections to the contraception. Plan B contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that immobilizes sperm, reduces the number of sperm cells in the uterine cavity and prevents further sperm from entering the uterine cavity. The hormone can delay or prevent ovulation from occurring and is most effective when taken immediately after unprotected intercourse.

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