A federal judge in New York rebuked the Obama administration on Friday and said the federal government will not get a reprieve from his order to make a form of emergency contraception available to all ages without a prescription.
Judge Edward Korman did, however, grant a short stay of his April 5 decision to broaden access Plan B One-Step for the limited purpose of letting the government try again before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. He deemed it a “courtesy” to the appellate body, which must receive any request for a stay by Monday.
The Obama administration decided this month to appeal the judge’s April order, citing a lack of scientific evidence on how the pill could impact girls younger than 15.
Days before their appeal, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug maker’s application to sell the pill to girls without a prescription as young as 15 — down from the prior age of 17 — although the teens would need to show identification.
“Indeed, as I observed at oral argument, the approval [to drug maker Teva Women’s Health]—when it finally came — was intended to provide a sugar-coating for the FDA’s appeal,” Judge Korman said in court papers filed Friday.
Throughout his 17-page order, the judge did little to hide his unhappiness with the Obama administration’s decision-making over the last four years, reiterating his opinion that Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other officials are continuing an “administrative agency filibuster through the appellate process.”
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“The effort to convert these … contraceptives from prescription to over-the-counter status has gone on for over twelve years, even though they would be among the safest drugs available to children and adults on any drug store shelf,” he wrote.
Judge Korman has said Mrs. Sebelius made an overtly political decision in 2011 — one year before Mr. Obama’s re-election — to override the FDA and retain age limits on access to the pill without a prescription.
Mr. Obama supported Mrs. Sebelius at the time. More recently, he said he is “comfortable” with the health agency’s decision to lower the age of access to 15, but not lower.
Judge Korman has said the administration is ignoring the difficulties that minorities and poor women face in obtaining ID cards to establish their age, a hurdle the Justice Department itself pointed to in a recent voting rights case before the Supreme Court.
He also said many disadvantaged women often do not have access to stores with pharmacies in their neighborhoods.