NEW YORK - Generic versions of emergency contraception can be sold without a prescription or age restrictions while the federal government appeals a judge's ruling allowing the sales, an appeals court said Wednesday.
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, though it said the government failed to meet the requirements necessary to block the lower-court decision.
The order was welcomed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, where President Nancy Northup called it a "historic day for women's health."
"Finally, after more than a decade of politically motivated delays, women will no longer have to endure intrusive, onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions to get emergency contraception," she said in a statement.
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. She said she hoped the pills would be available without restriction within a month.
"What it does mean is that generic two-pill products are going to be readily available to women without age restrictions, on any drugstore shelf," Rickelman said. "It'll be like buying Tylenol. You'll be able to go get it off the drugstore shelf, no ID, at the regular 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.