A federal judge has ruled that the morning-after pill should be available without a prescription or an age restriction.
This decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York contradicts how Plan B, the pill's brand name, is being handled now. Plan B is available without a prescription for women 17 years old and older. But younger women must have a prescription to obtain the pills. The change must be made in 30 days, although the federal government could appeal the decision.
Even if the morning-after pill is eventually allowed without age restrictions or prescriptions, there’s another factor at consider here in Ohio -- a voter-approved constitutional amendment.
In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Maurice Thompson, an attorney who was instrumental in the effort to pass the law at the ballot box, explains how he thinks this new federal ruling could play out in Ohio due to the amendment.
THOMPSON: "What it may actually indicate is that Ohio legislators cannot cut off certain people from buying this drug. In other words, the Health Care Freedom Amendment provides broad access to health care, which includes prescription, non-prescription drugs...and other things. And (it) prohibits the legislature from implementing new rules that could restrict that access. So it’s questionable what the Ohio legislature could do to actually stop a 16-year-old girl from purchasing this drug over the counter, if in fact the federal government allows the 16-year-old to purchase this drug over the counter. So the Health Care Freedom Amendment will be an issue for state and local governments."
INGLES: "So the health care amendment said, how was it worded? No future General Assembly could come back in and change it so that things could be passed, right?
THOMPSON: "That’s right. Divisions B and C of the Health Care Freedom Amendment prohibit the state legislature from restricting healthcare choices and healthcare options that are otherwise available. So whether they could in fact ban this drug for a certain age group would be a pretty salient legal issue. And it looks to be the case that the Health Care Freedom Amendment would prohibit the legislature from doing that."
INGLES: "So it would almost have to, in your opinion, looking at those parts of it, the restrictions would almost have to come from the federal government in order for them to actually work with the amendment that we have in law right now."
THOMPSON: "That’s exactly right."
It’s too early, at this point, to know whether the federal court ruling on Plan B contraceptives will stand and if it does, whether Ohio lawmakers might want to try to pass legislation that would affect it.