updated 2/4/2010 8:40:55 PM ET 2010-02-05T01:40:55

The Pentagon for the first time will require military bases worldwide to offer emergency contraception or the so-called morning-after pill, a military spokeswoman said Thursday.

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The decision follows a recommendation by an independent panel of doctors and pharmacists in November, said Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith. The panel determined that emergency contraception should be added to the military's list of medications that must be stocked at each military facility.

The decision represents a policy shift from the Bush administration when such a change was resisted, Nancy Keenan, president of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement praising the decision.

Over much resistance from abortion opponents, the Food and Drug Administration approved the over-the-counter sale of the morning-after pill to adults in 2006.

The drug, which contains a high dose of birth control pills, can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex by blocking ovulation or fertilization. Critics of the contraceptive say it is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

Smith said she did not know when the policy would be implemented.

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