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Morning-after pill okay for ages 15 and up, says FDA

The FDA announced that Plan B, usually described as a 'morning-after pill' because it can prevent pregnancy if taken shortly after sexual intercourse, will be available to girls and women without a prescription if they can prove they are at least 15 years old.

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Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel), one of the brands known as the 'morning-after pill,' will be available without a prescription (over-the-counter), the FDA announced today. The FDA also lowered to 15 the age at which girls and women can buy the emergency contraceptive without a prescription.

Teva Women's Health / AP

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The government is moving the morning-after pill over the counter but only those 15 and older can buy it — an attempt to find middle ground just days before a court-imposed deadline to lift all age restrictions on the emergency contraceptive.

Today, Plan B One-Step is sold behind pharmacy counters, and buyers must prove they're 17 or older to buy it without a prescription or else see a doctor first. Tuesday's decision by the Food and Drug Administration lowers the age limit to 15 — and will allow the pill to sit on drugstore shelves next to condoms and spermicides or other women's health products. But customers must prove their age at the cash register.

Teva Women's Health, which makes Plan B, said it would begin over-the-counter sales in a few months.

The question is whether Tuesday's action settles a larger court fight. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York blasted the Obama administration for imposing the age-17 limit, saying it had let election-year politics trump science and was making it hard for women of any age to obtain the emergency contraception in time. He ordered an end to all age restrictions by Monday, for Plan B and its generic versions.

The FDA said Tuesday's decision was independent of the court case and wasn't intended to address it. Technically, the FDA approved Teva's application to sell Plan B in this manner.

The Justice Department remained mum on whether it planned to appeal Korman's decision, and the White House had no immediate comment.

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