After a decade-long battle over access to emergency contraception, a federal judge yesterday ordered US regulators to make the morning-after pill available over the counter without limits on age.
US District Court Judge Edward Korman ruled that a decision in 2011 by the health and human services chief requiring under-17s to obtain a prescription was "politically motivated" and "scientifically unjustified".
The ruling orders the Food and Drug Administration to make emergency contraception available to under-17s without a doctor's prescription.
Emergency contraceptives contain the same active ingredients as birth-control pills but at higher doses, and can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. Experts say it is most effective during the first 24 hours.
US pharmacies had required a prescription for under-17s. Those 17 and over needed to present government-issued identification to purchase emergency contraceptives, available only at pharmacies.
The Centre for Reproductive Rights, which brought the lawsuit, hailed the "landmark" ruling as a "victory for women".
"Today, science has finally prevailed over politics," said the group's president, Nancy Northup. "Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception.
"It's a true victory for all women, especially young women, women without government-issued identification, and those who live in areas with limited pharmacy hours."
The fight over access to the morning-after pill has been raging since 2001, with advocates saying there should be wider access, and critics warning of health and social dangers.