The Obama Administration announced on Monday it would abandon its plan to keep age restrictions on the sale of morning-after contraceptive pills. After setbacks in federal court over recent months, the Justice department dropped the case.
Plan B One-Step now will be sold openly on pharmacy shelves.
A ruling by a federal judge in early April said the Food and Drug Administration must make emergency contraceptives available to all ages by May 6.
The Justice Department had announced May 1 that it would appeal this decision, saying the judge who issued the ruling had exceeded his authority and that his decision should be suspended while the appeal is underway.
The appeal and a request for an injunction will not affect the FDA's April 30 decision to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold without a prescription to 15-year-olds.
U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn, N.Y., said the case wasn't about the potential misuse of the emergency contraceptive by 11-year-olds because he said the number of girls that age likely to use the drugs was minuscule.
Korman's ruling was in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights seeking to expand access to emergency contraception.
Plan B, known generically as levonorgestrel, uses large doses of birth-control pills to prevent conception up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. According to the FDA it will "not stop a pregnancy when a woman is already pregnant, and there is no medical evidence that the product will harm a developing fetus."
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B to women 18 and older; three years later, a court ruling made it available to women 17 and older without a prescription. Until Korman's ruling, anyone younger still needed a prescription.
The Associated Press reported that the FDA was ready to lift all age limits on emergency contraceptives and let them be sold over the counter in late 2011, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, changed the FDA's course, saying that even though some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children they shouldn't be able to buy the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own.
A Feb. 21 statement by the German bishops said the "morning-after pills," or Plan B, can be dispensed at church-run hospitals to prevent rape victims from becoming pregnant.
"Women who have been victims of rape will, of course, receive human, medical, psychological and pastoral help in Catholic hospitals -- this can include administration of the 'morning-after pill' as long as it has a preventive rather than abortive effect," the bishops' conference said.
They added that "medical and pharmaceutical methods that result in the death of an embryo may still not be used."