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Federal appeals court refuses to block emergency contraceptive order

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ordered [text] Wednesday that the two-pill variety of the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B [official website] be made immediately available to all individuals regardless of age. A one-pill version will continue to be subject to age restrictions pending appeal. The Obama administration had sought to block a lower court order making the pills available to all women without a prescription, regardless of age. The order directs the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] to implement the previous ruling as to the two-pill version. Those who support the court's ruling claim any age restriction will place a burden on women seeking the drug even when the meet the age limit.

This comes just 13 days after Obama urged [JURIST report] the court to delay implementation of the ruling. In 2005 organizations and individuals concerned with women's health filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] in pursuit of expanded access to the drugs, including over the counter availability regardless of age. The judge ruled in their favor, but in December 2011 the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website], Kathleen Sebelius [HHS profile], intervened to block the ruling as it related to minors, citing inadequate evidence concerning adverse health effects. In April US District Judge Edward Korman overruled [JURIST report] Sebelius' "unprecedented," decision, calling the prior requirement for adolescents under age 16 "unjustified and burdensome." The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] appealed [JURIST report] from the decision in May, stating that the judge had overstepped his legal authority.

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