Women may buy the morning-after pill without a prescription — but only with proof they’re 18 or older, federal health officials decided Thursday. The Food and Drug Administration ruling culminated a contentious three-year effort to ease access to the emergency contraceptive.
Girls 17 and younger still will need a doctor’s note to buy the pills, called Plan B, the FDA told manufacturer Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.
The compromise decision is a partial victory for women’s advocacy and medical groups which say eliminating sales restrictions could cut in half the nation’s 3 million annual unplanned pregnancies. Opponents have argued that wider access could increase promiscuity.
The long delay had ensnared President Bush’s nominee to head the FDA. On Thursday, two senators said they would lift their blockade, making confirmation of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach as FDA’s commissioner likely next month.