A federal judge on Thursday said the Obama administration is playing politics with his decision to make emergency contraception available to all ages without a prescription, according to attorneys who were in the courtroom.
Judge Edward Korman even accused the Justice Department of staking out a position that conflicts with the arguments it made in a high-profile Supreme Court case that touches on civil rights, multiple news sites reported.
The Justice Department appeared before the judge in New York to request a stay of his April 5 ruling that broadened access to Plan B One-Step, since they plan to appeal the ruling.
Judge Korman said he will make a decision by the end of the week.
But in stern language, he made it clear that he was not pleased with the Food and Drug Administration’s decision last week to lower the age of access to the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill from 17 to 15, yet require women to provide identification.
Judge Korman said the poor, minorities and young people have the hardest time acquiring identification, and it was “intellectually dishonest” for the Justice Department to stake out that position since it has made the opposite argument in voting rights cases, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The Partnership for Civil Justice, which is among the groups that brought the lawsuit to broaden access to Plan B One-Step, applauded the judge in a news release after the hearing.
“Over a two-hour period, Judge Korman made it clear that the government’s position was unjustifiable,” the fund said.
The Obama administration has faced heat from both sides of the political spectrum for its handling of age limits on the morning-after pill.
Reproductive rights groups were upset by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ decision in 2011 to limit the drug to women 17 and older, unless they had a prescription.
The FDA recently approved an application by the drug’s maker, Teva Women’s Health, to lower the age to 15 — a move that angered conservative groups.
The Obama administration said the approval was not tied to the court case, but noted the plaintiffs in the lawsuit over Plan B One-Step were all 15 or older.
Mr. Obama has said the decision to lower the age of access was not his to make, but he is “comfortable” with the FDA’s actions.