BROOKLYN — A federal judge’s order to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription to people of any age has drawn sharp criticism and concern from public figures throughout the country.
“This is just a recipe for disaster,” Dennis Poust, communications director for the New York State Catholic Conference, told Catholic News Agency April 5.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a federal judge in Brooklyn, Edward Korman, ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription to people of any age.
Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said the ruling makes young girls more vulnerable to sexual predators as well as harmful side effects of the drug.
“The court’s action undermines parents’ ability to protect their daughters from such exploitation and from the adverse effects of the drug itself,” she said in an April 5 statement.
In December 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA's plan to make the drug available over the counter and with no age limits, citing “significant cognitive and behavioral differences” between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.
President Barack Obama voiced support for Sebelius’ “commonsense” decision, saying that most other parents “would probably feel the same way.”
According to the judge’s comments, Sebelius’ original decision to block access to the drug for children under 16 was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”
His ruling will allow people of any age to purchase the “emergency contraceptive,” a high dose of the synthetic progesterone hormone called levonorgestrel, without a prescription.
Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life called the judge’s decision an opportunity for the "big abortion industry to gamble with young girls’ health.”
“Equally troubling, this allows young girls pressured into sex or even abused by adults to be manipulated into taking pills that cover up what is a criminal act,” she said in a statement.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, called Judge Korman’s ruling “reckless” and said that it “denies girls the protection that comes along with the involvement of parents and doctors.”
Many opponents have raised the question of what this ruling will do to girls who could use the drug as a birth-control routine instead of getting a prescription for the pill.
“I think we may see overuse to the point that a young girl may seriously have her health compromised as a result or even, God forbid, die because of misuse of these drugs,” Poust said.
Anna Higgins, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Center, said in a statement that this ruling presents a “real danger” for the drug to be forced on young women and girls without their consent.
“The involvement of parents and medical professionals act as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today’s ruling removes these commonsense protections."