NEW YORK (AP) — The plaintiffs in a legal fight over emergency contraceptives complained Wednesday that the government has fallen short with its proposal to comply with a judge's order to lift all restrictions on sales of the drugs.
President Barack Obama's administration had notified U.S. District Judge Edward Korman earlier this week it had decided to reverse course and comply with his order to make morning-after pills available to buyers of any age without prescriptions.
Lawyers for women's rights advocates, in a letter filed in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday, argued that the plan is flawed in part because it limits the unrestricted sales to the Plan B one-pill version of the drug. They said the judge ruled the two-pill version must be available as well.
"Women are not fooled by the Administration's latest move which continues to unnecessarily restrict access to a safe and effective form of birth control," one of the lawyers, Andrea Costello, said in a statement. "It's a political choice to put only the most expensive product over the counter and not comply with the court's order to make two-pill emergency contraceptives available without restriction."
The Department of Justice, in its court filings this week, has claimed that its proposal "fully complies with the district court's judgment in this action." It also has offered to voluntarily drop an appeal of the judge's order if he signs off on the plan to fast-track the Food and Drug Administration's approval of unrestricted Plan-B sales.
It was unclear when the judge would respond to the latest exchange in the long-running legal dispute over access to morning-after pills. His office has declined to comment.
The judge has been critical of the government's previous attempts to prohibit over-the-counter sales to teenagers, calling the efforts "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent." He also found that there was no legal basis to deny the request to make the drugs widely available.
The morning-after pill contains a higher dose of the female hormone progestin than is in regular birth control pills. Taking it within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or just forgetting regular contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent, but it works best within the first 24 hours. If a girl or woman already is pregnant, the pill, which prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg, has no effect.
The FDA was preparing in 2011 to allow over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill with no limits when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled her own scientists in an unprecedented move. White House officials have claimed that the FDA and the Department of Justice were acting independently of the White House in deciding how to proceed.