The government is running out of time to try to halt implementation of a federal judge's ruling that would lift age restrictions for women and girls wanting to buy the morning-after pill.
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn last week refused to delay enforcement of his month-old decision while the government challenges his ruling, but said it would have until Monday to appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
Korman said politics is behind efforts by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to block the unrestricted sale of the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill and its generic competitors.
Justice Department lawyers want the ruling stayed while they appeal.
If the government fails, it would clear the way for over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill to younger girls. The FDA announced earlier this month that the contraception could be sold without a prescription to those 15 and older, a decision Korman said merely sugarcoated the appeal of his order lifting the age restriction.
Sales had previously been limited to those who were at least 17.
The government warned that "substantial market confusion" could result if Korman's ruling was enforced while appeals are pending. The judge dismissed the reasoning as a "silly argument."
Korman ordered levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be made available without a prescription, over-the-counter and without point-of-sale or age restrictions. The order was supposed to take effect on Friday.
The judge said he ruled against the government "because the secretary's action was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent" and because there was no basis to deny the request to make the drugs widely available.
In court papers, attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights have said that every day the ruling is not enforced is "life-altering" to some women.