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Feds surrender: Teens can buy 'morning-after pill'

The federal government said today it will end its years-long fight against a judge's order to allow girls of any age to buy emergency contraception without prescriptions. 

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Pharmacist Simon Gorelikov holds a generic emergency contraceptive, also called the morning-after pill, at the Health First Pharmacy in Boston, May 2, 2013. A federal appeals court has ruled that girls of any age must have access to generic versions of emergency contraception without prescriptions. Until today, the federal government was fighting this ruling.

Elise Amendola/AP/File

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The federal government on Monday told a judge it will reverse course and take steps to comply with his order to allow girls of any age to buy emergency contraception without prescriptions.

The decision ends a years-long fight between President Barack Obama's administration, which had argued that age limits for the morning-after pill are common sense, and women's rights groups, which insisted the drug should be made as freely available as aspirin.

The Department of Justice, in the latest development in the complex back-and-forth over access to the drug, notified U.S. District Judge Edward Korman it will submit a plan for compliance. If he approves it, the department will drop its appeal of his April ruling.

According to the department's letter to the judge, the Food and Drug Administration has told the maker of the pills to submit a new drug application with proposed labeling that would permit it to be sold "without a prescription and without age or point-of-sale prescriptions." The FDA said that once it receives the application it "intends to approve it promptly."

Last week, an appeals court dealt the government a setback by saying it would immediately permit unrestricted sales of the two-pill version of the emergency contraception until the appeal was decided. That order was met with praise from advocates for girls' and women's rights and with scorn from social conservatives and other opponents, who argue the drug's availability takes away the rights of parents of girls who could get it without their permission.

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