Selling of morning-after pill to 15-year-olds draws pro-life flak

(Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)A Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive box is seen in New York, April 5, 2013. A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make "morning-after" emergency contraception pills available without a prescription to all girls of reproductive age.

U.S. President Barack Obama's reiteration of his comfort with allowing 15-year-old girls over the counter access to morning-after pills known as Plan B faces flak from pro-life groups.

But even stronger criticism is reserved for a federal court judge in New York who made a ruling that will have an impact on policy regarding the availability of the "morning after" pill to girls.

Having already stated his approval of the new regulatory rule, decided upon by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, while at a Mexico City conference with Mexican President Pena Nieto, Obama clarified his statements on the basis of scientific data.

"I'm very comfortable with the decision they've made right now based on solid scientific evidence for girls 15 and older," Obama said in the Mexican capital Thursday, but also clarified the decision was not his own.

"This is a decision made by the FDA and the secretary of Health and Human Services. It's not my decision to make," Obama said. "Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius expressed concerns and I supported those concerns and I gave voice to them."

In comments cited in LifeNews, however, Anna Higgins, J.D., director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, expressed serious concerns regarding a federal judge's order April 30 that the "morning-after" pill be available to girls of all ages without a prescription.

"This ruling places the health of young girls at risk. Making Plan B available for girls under the age of 17 without a prescription flies in the face of medical information and sound judgment.

"I am very troubled that the court has not fully taken into account the concerns expressed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and many public health advocates that there is not enough data on the health effects of Plan B on young girls," she said

In the past, the president has been more circumspect with his words on the issue.

He supported in 2011 a decision by Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to set age restrictions on Plan B One-Step and the other competitive versions of it.

At the time Sebelius expressed concerns over minors being able to simply pick up Plan B at any drug or convenience store.

Also, the president said Thursday that matter of how it will affect younger minor has not been decided.

"It has not resolved the question of girls younger than 15," Obama said. "There is a court case that came up that is being appealed by the Justice Department, that's a Justice Department decision.

"My understanding is that part of it has to do with the precedent and the way in which the judge handled that case and my suspicion is that the FDA might be called on to make further decisions on whether there is sufficient scientific evidence for girls younger than 15."

The president was referring to a court case in New York last month where federal Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to make morning-after pills available to all younger teens and girls with no age restrictions.

The White House issued a statement disagreeing on the concept of there being no age limits.

The president's own Justice Department appealing that case has caused the administration to come under fire from women's rights advocates since Wednesday.

Obama also restated his strong support in contraceptives and women's rights.

"I'm very supportive of contraception because I think it's very important that women have control over their health care choices and when they are starting a family," Obama said.

"That's their decision to make and so we want to make sure they have access to contraception."

Pro-life groups consider Plan B a form of abortion, including the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Catholic Church.

Last month, the group's executive director Donna Harrison said, "What you don't have is a lot of funding for research that says, 'Does this drug affect the embryo?"

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