Government files last-minute appeal on lifting age restrictions for buying the morning-after pill

NEW YORK - The government has filed a last-second appeal that will delay the sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill to girls of any age without a prescription.

The appeal was filed shortly before a noon Monday deadline.

Brooklyn federal Judge Edward Korman says politics is behind efforts by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to block the unrestricted sale of the Plan B pill.

Justice Department lawyers had asked for a stay of the month-old decision while they appeal.

Korman denied the request but postponed the enforcement of his order to allow them to take the matter to a federal appeals court.

Earlier this month, the FDA announced the contraception could be sold without a prescription to those 15 and older. But Korman's ruling removed age limits.

If the government appeal 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.

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