April 5, 2013
CONTACT: Tara Sweeney, 917-488-0094, [email protected]

NARAL Pro-Choice New York and National Institute for Reproductive Health Applaud Federal Court Ruling that Emergency Contraception Should be

Organization’s Own New Research Found That Age Restriction Led to Confusion
and Lack of Access Even in New York City

NEW YORK—A federal district court ruled today that the FDA must make progestin-only emergency contraceptive (EC) pills available over-the-counter, ending the complicated and unnecessary restrictions that have kept this time-sensitive back-up birth control method behind-the-pharmacy counter and available to women 16 and under only with a prescription.

“For far too long, women of all ages have had limited access to a safe, effective back-up birth control method despite the clear scientific and medical consensus that it should be available over the counter. It is about time that the decision to keep EC behind the pharmacy counter – and only by prescription for certain teens – was called out for being a political, not scientific move,” said Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and NARAL Pro-Choice New York.

In 2012, NARAL Pro-Choice New York and National Institute for Reproductive Health conducted an in-person mystery shopper study assessing pharmacy access to EC for teens in New York City. Twenty adolescents visited 43 pharmacies in three boroughs. This study found that most adolescents could not access EC in the pharmacies surveyed, as most pharmacists did not know that 17-year-olds were legally able buy EC without a prescription. Moreover, the overall barriers to EC access were greater in low-income neighborhoods than in higher-income neighborhoods.

“This ruling – and what we hope will be fast action by the FDA – is critical because the behind-the-counter status and age limitation for EC was so confusing that even pharmacists have been unsure about who can and cannot access this birth control method and how,” Miller explained. “That is no way to ensure that any woman who is concerned that she might be at risk for unintended pregnancy has access to a time-sensitive product that has proven, time and again, to be safe for all ages and effective in preventing pregnancy.”

Today’s decision rebuffs an unprecedented move last year by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who overruled a recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration to make the pill available for all ages without a prescription.

“This is a real triumph for women and men of all ages – with EC available on the pharmacy shelf, this safe, reliable form of contraception will be accessible when it is most needed, in emergencies and when time is of the essence,” Miller concluded. “We urge the FDA to take the final steps to get this product on the pharmacy shelves, and to do it soon.”

For nearly a decade, the National Institute for Reproductive Health has spearheaded the Back Up Your Birth Control campaign, a nationwide initiative to improve awareness of and access to all forms of emergency contraception.