updated 8/4/2005 10:14:39 PM ET 2005-08-05T02:14:39

Republican Gov. George Pataki vetoed legislation Thursday that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense the so-called “morning-after pill” without prescriptions.

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Pataki, who had announced Sunday that he would veto the measure, said he was most upset that the bill did not require minors to see a physician.

“We can do better,” said the governor, who pledged to work with sponsors of the legislation to come up with a proposal he would sign.

Advocates for the bill have said they believe Pataki, with an eye on seeking the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, is using the veto to appeal to conservatives.

“This was driven by politics,” said Kelli Conlin, executive director of the New York chapter of National Abortion Rights Action League.

The morning-after pill contains a higher dose of regular contraception hormones. It prevents pregnancy by delaying a woman’s ovulation or preventing fertilization. It also can thin the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant. Anti-abortion groups see interfering with a fertilized egg as abortion.

The Food and Drug Administration plans to decide by Sept. 1 whether the morning-after pill can be sold without a doctor’s prescription. Seven states already permit over-the-counter sales.

Emergency contraceptives can reduce the chance of pregnancy by 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of intercourse, and supporters said making them available without a prescription would help more women get the pills in time.

“As we all know, accidents don’t happen during doctors’ office hours,” Adrienne Verrilli of the Sexuality Information and Education Council said. “They occur at night and on weekends when doctors are difficult to reach.”

The governor said he wanted a limit on the number of pills that could be dispensed at one time and did not want men to be able to get them, as would have been permitted under the vetoed legislation.

He also said the bill should require patients getting the morning-after pill to receive counseling on the health risks of unprotected sex.

“I know that there are many New Yorkers who sincerely disagree with this position, and I respect and appreciate their views. But my action today is based solely on a desire to protect the health and safety of our youngest and most vulnerable women.”

Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who also is eyeing the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, vetoed similar legislation last month.

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