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Justice Department appeals morning-after pill ruling

By Steve Brusk and Chelsea J. Carter
updated 11:58 PM EDT, Thu May 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Justice Department says the judge's ruling does not have ''point-of-sale restrictions"
  • Key ingredient in Plan B is the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel
  • It prevents fertilization or, if an egg has been fertilized, prevents it from embedding in the uterus

(CNN) -- The U.S. Justice Department has filed a notice of appeal over a federal judge's ruling that directed the Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after birth control pill available to females of all ages without a prescription.

In April, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception, specifically the morning-after pill, available to females of any age without a prescription. This week's FDA announcement, which pertains to an application from Teva Women's Health Inc., is not related to Korman's order, the FDA said.

Morning-after pill made available to all

The key ingredient in Plan B is the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel, which can prevent fertilization or, if an egg has been fertilized, prevent it from embedding in the uterus.

Korman's ruling was in response to a lawsuit launched by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The group was seeking to expand access to all brands of the morning-after pill over the counter, such as Plan B One-Step and Next Choice, so that females of all ages would be able to purchase them without a prescription.

Supporters of the ruling called it a landmark decision, while opponents raised concerns about safeguards being eliminated.

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood called on the Obama administration to allow access to the morning-after pill to be expanded.

"Studies show that emergency contraception is a safe and effective form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of unprotected sex, and research also shows that teens are as likely as adults to use emergency contraception correctly," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

"Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated."

National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill issued a statement saying the appeal of Korman's ruling is "a step backwards for women's health."

"Millions of women need access to this safe and effective product, and the prevention of unwanted pregnancy, particularly in adolescents, should not be obstructed by politicians," O'Neill said.

Emergency contraceptives are intended for use within 72 hours after sex but are most effective if taken within 24 hours.

Many developed countries require a prescription for oral contraceptives, including Canada and most of Europe, but other countries sell the pill without a prescription even formally or informally.

CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

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