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The question of access for young people to emergency over-the-counter contraceptives has become a contentious issue in the US. A federal judge in New York lifted the age limits on purchasing the contraceptives, a decision that brought the court into direct conflict with the US Catholic Conference of Bishops.
The bishops have demanded that the ruling be appealed and overturned, claiming that allowing young people to have increased access to emergency contraception contributes to increased rates of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).
US District Court Judge Edward Korman had given the US Food & Drug Administration 30 days to make the morning-after pill available to women of all ages, ruling that any potential misuse of the drug by girls as young as 11 was so minuscule as to not be worth taking into account.
The drug that Judge Korman said must be made available is Plan B, known by its generic name of levonorgestrel. It can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
Since 2006, Plan B has been available to women over the age of 18 and to women aged 17 since 2009. Judge Korman’s ruling means that women under the age of 17 now no longer need a prescription to buy the morning-after pill.
The US Catholic Conference of Bishops said Plan B would not stop the spread of any STIs and would also make adolescent girls more susceptible to sexual predators. Both the bishops and the Pro-Life Commission of the Archdiocese of New York say the judge’s ruling undermines the role of parents by removing their right to know what medications their under-age daughters are taking.
The Korman ruling followed a lawsuit by the Centre for Reproductive Rights over a decision by the Federal Government in Washington to impose an age limit on over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill.