Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Judge Lifts Age Limits On Emergency Contraceptives

By CNS | Published April 11, 2013

WASHINGTON (CNS)—An April 5 decision by a New York federal judge to lift age limits on purchases of over-the-counter emergency contraceptives should be “appealed and overturned,” according to an official of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

“No public health consideration justifies the unregulated distribution of such drugs to children,” said Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the
USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro Life Activities.

“Many studies have shown that wider access to ‘emergency contraception’ among young people does not reduce pregnancy or abortion rates, but can contribute to higher rates of sexually transmitted disease,” she said in a statement.

Mary Boyert, the head of the Atlanta Archdiocesan Respect Life Ministries, said, “Our hope and prayer” is the Obama administration will appeal the ruling, “which I personally believe is outrageous and irresponsible.”

Without any change, however, if it is not overturned, young women and girls of any age—including girls as young as 10 or 11—will be able to walk into any drugstore and purchase this powerful hormone, with no questions asked, said Boyert.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn, N.Y., said that within 30 days, the Food and Drug Administration must make emergency contraceptives available to women of all ages.

Korman said the case wasn’t about the potential misuse by 11-year-olds of the contraceptive called the morning-after pill or “Plan B.” He said the number of girls that age likely to use the drugs was minuscule.

Plan B, known generically as levonorgestrel, uses large doses of birth-control pills to prevent conception up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.

In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B to women 18 and older; three years later, a court ruling made it available to women 17 and older without a prescription. Until Korman’s ruling, anyone younger still needed a prescription.

According to McQuade, “Plan B does not prevent or treat any disease, but makes young adolescent girls more available to sexual predators.”

She said the court’s action “undermines parents’ ability to protect their daughters from such exploitation and from the adverse effects of the drug itself.”

For parents, Boyert suggested they talk with their children about the risks and problems associated with sexual activity before marriage, with a special warning about the dangers of taking drugs such as Plan B.

“Obviously, a strong presentation of God’s plan for sexuality will have the best possible outcome—children will learn that their sexuality is a special gift from God and should be used as he intended it—in a loving relationship between a husband and wife,” she said.

“Those who claim that girls as young as 10 or 11 are responsible enough to take a powerful hormone that is a higher dose of that contained in birth control pills that are available only by prescription, should consider that, maybe, just maybe, these same young girls can be responsible enough to learn how to avoid sexual activity in the first place,” she said.

Sean Fieler, chairman of the Pro-Life Commission of the Archdiocese of New York, similarly disapproved the decision saying it takes away from parents “their legitimate rights to know what medical care and medications their children are receiving.”

“As a society, we properly regulate the decisions that children can make on their own, and so a child can’t be given an aspirin without parental supervision, get an ear pierced, or, here in New York, even use a tanning bed! But now young girls can be given these strong dangerous abortion-inducing drugs without a parent’s approval, or even a doctor’s supervision. This is very sad and simply wrong,” he said.

Korman’s decision came in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights over a decision by the Obama administration to set the age limit on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives.

Andrew Nelson contributed to this story.