NEW YORK — Girls of any age can buy generic versions of emergency contraception without a prescription while the federal government appeals a judge's ruling allowing the sales, according to a ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court.
The brief order issued by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan permitted two-pill versions of emergency contraception to immediately be sold without restrictions, but the court refused to allow unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step until it decides the merits of the government's appeal. It did not specify why the two-pill versions were being allowed now.
The order was welcomed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, where President Nancy Northup called it a "historic day for women's health."
The center's litigation director, Julie Rickelman, said the government has two weeks to decide whether to appeal the 2nd Circuit's decision on the stay to the full appeals court or the Supreme Court. Even if there is no appeal of the stay ruling, it was unclear how soon drugstores would move the two-pill emergency contraception from behind the counter.
Justice Department spokeswoman Allison Price said the government was reviewing the court's order.
The government has appealed U.S. District Judge Edward Korman's underlying April 5 ruling, which ordered levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be made available without a prescription, over-the-counter and without point-of-sale or age restrictions.
The government asked Korman to suspend the effect of that ruling until the appeals court could decide the case, but the judge declined, saying the government's decision to restrict sales was "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent."