Praise and criticism for ruling on morning-after pill

A package containing a Plan B One-Step tablet, A package containing a Plan B One-Step tablet, also known as the "morning-after pill." Photo Credit: AP

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Advocacy groups on Long Island and beyond offered praise and criticism for a federal judge's ruling in Brooklyn that would allow young women to buy the morning-after pill without a prescription.

"We are very, very, very happy for women of all ages. It expands access to birth control and to the health care that women need in order to prevent unintended pregnancies," said JoAnn Smith, president of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County. "Accidents do happen and this is the safety belt to make sure, and to prevent unintended pregnancies."

One doctor, however, cautioned that all females, regardless of age, should seek medical advice before taking the pill.

"I think that in general the purchase of hormones should require a doctor's prescription, for someone of any age," said Dr. Stuart Lusterberg, who has an OB-GYN practice in Huntington. "There can be harmful effects and I would like to see the patients have the proper medical supervision."

Dr. Jill Maura Rabin, chief of the Division of Ambulatory Care at the North Shore-LIJ Health System, said the medical community has long supported the end of age restrictions on the use of the pill.

"It is safe and it is effective," she said. "It does not increase pregnancies -- studies have shown that -- and it does not increase irresponsible sex. This is a backup method. There is no medical or scientific rationale for restricting its use.

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"We encourage them to consult a health care provider, or family or a friend before making a decision," she said. "Abstinence is best, but this method is very effective in case of failure of other methods or unintended pregnancy."

The Family Research Council said in a statement the decision puts young girls' health at risk by circumventing "necessary medical screenings" and ignores concerns about insufficient data on how the pill affects the health of young girls.

Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro Life Activities, said U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn "acted irresponsibly by making this powerful drug available without a prescription to minor children."

"Plan B does not prevent or treat any disease," she said, "but makes young adolescent girls more available to sexual predators."

The Long Island Women's Equality Coalition said the decision reflected its support for the right of all women to access to the pill.

"Emergency contraception is a safe measure for sexually active individuals, and those who need it will hopefully have access without as many obstacles," said Amol Sinha, a member of the coalition and the director of Suffolk Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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