The maker of the morning after pill, along with women’s groups and lawmakers, plans to press its success a step further, seeking to make the controversial abortion drug available without prescription to girls 17 and under.

After a three-year battle, the Food and Drug Administration announced an easing of restrictions yesterday, making it possible for anyone 18 and older to pick up the drug over-the-counter.

“The battleground now shifts to availability for women under 18, and that is likely to prove very contentious since it is tied to strongly held beliefs about abstinence education and parental rights,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, according to MSNBC.

Advocates of making the drug available to youths argue any restrictions might hinder efforts to curb the estimated 3 million unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. each year.

Abortion provider Planned Parenthood said it’s “troubled by the scientifically baseless restriction imposed on teenagers.”

“The U.S. has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the Western world,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. “Anything that makes it harder for teenagers to avoid unintended pregnancy is bad medicine and bad public policy.”

The backers of the drug point to studies showing Plan B cuts the chances of pregnancy by 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse.

Opponents, including the Family Research Council, fear easy accessibility will promote promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases, along with use by sexual predators.

Some opponents — who argue the pill acts as an abortifacient, killing a human life — insist the age restriction won’t work anyway.

“If the FDA thinks that enacting an age restriction will work, or that the drug company will enforce it … then they are living in a dream world,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.

The FDA is requiring the drug’s manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., to use various methods, including anonymous shoppers, to help ensure pharmacists enforce the age restriction.

The White House announced its support for the FDA’s move this week.

“The FDA made clear that it will insist on stringent conditions and restrictions on access to reduce both health risks and opportunities for abuse, especially to protect minors,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.



Previous stories:

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.