A three-judge federal appeals panel on Wednesday temporarily cleared the way for sales without restriction of one type of morning-after emergency contraceptive by lifting a stay sought by the government while it appeals a ruling by a federal judge in Brooklyn.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a two-pill version of the drug can be sold to women of all ages over-the-counter without photo ID or proof of age, but refused to allow nonprescription sales of a one-pill version to girls under 17 until it decides the merits of the government appeal.
Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled in April that the morning-after drug, levonorgestrel, met safety and effectiveness standards for women of all ages to buy with no prescription. Until Wednesday the appeals court had delayed Korman's ruling while it considered the government's appeal.
Wednesday's ruling partially lifting the stay indicates that the appeals court is likely to uphold Korman's ruling on the two-pill product. The government has argued that Korman lacked jurisdiction over the one-pill product, which was developed after the case began.
Nancy Northup of New York's Center for Reproductive Rights, which spearheaded the case, called it a "historic day for women's health."
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the ruling is under review. She gave no indication whether it will be appealed to the full appeals court, or how long it will take the Food and Drug Administration to implement if further review is not sought.
Sale of the morning-after contraceptive has been mired in controversy for the past decade. Korman ruled that the FDA had imposed limitations based on the politics of teen pregnancy rather than the safety of the drug.