WASHINGTON -- The government is moving the morning-after pill over the counter but only those 15 and older can buy it -- an attempt to find middle ground just days before a court-imposed deadline to lift all age restrictions on the emergency contraceptive.

Today, Plan B One-Step is sold behind pharmacy counters, and buyers must prove they're 17 or older to buy it without a prescription. Yesterday's decision by the Food and Drug Administration lowers the age limit and will allow the pill to sit on drugstore shelves next to spermicides and condoms -- but purchasers must prove their age at the cash register.

"This decision is a step in the right direction for increased access to a product that is a safe and effective method of preventing unintended pregnancies," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said. "It's also a decision that moves us closer to these critical availability decisions being based on science, not politics."

But earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York blasted the Obama administration for imposing the age-17 limit, saying it had let politics trump science and was making it hard for women of any age to obtain the emergency contraception in time. He ordered an end to the age restrictions by Monday.

The women's group that sued over the age limits said yesterday's action is not enough, and it will continue the court fight.

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Lowering the age limit "may reduce delays for some young women, but it does nothing to address the significant barriers that far too many women of all ages will still find if they arrive at the drugstore without identification," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The FDA said Plan B One-Step will have a product code that prompts cashiers to verify a customer's age. Anyone who can't provide proof wouldn't be allowed to complete the purchase.