NEW YORK - The Obama administration on Monday filed a last-minute appeal to delay the sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill to girls of any age without a prescription.
The legal paperwork asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, to postpone a federal judge's ruling that eliminated age limits on the pill, while the government appeals that overall decision.
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman has said that politics was behind efforts by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to block the unrestricted sale of the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill and its generic competitors.
Last month, he ordered that the levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be made available without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions. He then denied a request to postpone his ruling while the government appealed, but gave them until Monday to appeal again.
Government attorneys warned that "substantial market confusion" could result if Korman's ruling were enforced while appeals were pending. On Monday, lawyers argued that the district court "plainly overstepped its authority" and that they believed they would win the overall appeal.
Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights have said in court papers that every day the ruling was not enforced was "life-altering" to some women. They have 10 days to respond to the most recent government filings, after which the appeals court will issue a decision.
If the government fails, it would clear the way for over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill to younger girls. The FDA announced earlier this month that Plan B One-Step could be sold without a prescription to those 15 and older, a decision Korman said merely sugarcoated the appeal of his order lifting the age restriction.
Sales had previously been limited to those who were at least age 17.
The judge said he ruled against the government "because the secretary's action was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent" and because there was no basis to deny the request to make the drugs widely available.