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Federal Judge: FDA Must Make Morning After Pill Available to All

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F. Franklin Amanat, a lawyer for the government, said the Department of Justice has no immediate comment.

"We are reviewing the decision and evaluating the government's options," he said.

Andrea Costello, an attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, called it a landmark victory.

"This is a landmark decision in terms of providing women and girls in the United States access to a safe and effective form of birth control," Costello said.

The morning-after pill currently is available without a prescription only to those 17 and older who can prove their age. Younger teens must get a prescription.

The Food and Drug Administration was preparing to let the pill be sold without a prescription or age limit when, in 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled FDA scientists and said the age restrictions should remain in place. President Barack Obama said he supported the decision regarding a pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.

The judge said the FDA decided after 11 months, 47,000 public comments and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars spent, that it did not need rulemaking on the subject.

"The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency's misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the FDA to engage in further delay and obstruction," he wrote.

He said the case isn't about the potential misuse of the morning-after pill by 11-year-olds. He said the contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over-the-counter and the number of 11-year-olds likely to use the drugs was minuscule.

Four years ago, Korman was highly critical of the government's handling of the issue when he ordered the FDA to let 17-year-olds obtain the medication. At the time, he accused the government of letting "political considerations, delays and implausible justifications for decision-making" cloud the approval process.