Nightly News   |  April 05, 2013

‘Morning-after pill’ now available without prescription

A federal appeals court ruled the emergency contraception known as Plan B will now have to be made available over the counter to women of any age, even teenagers, overturning a controversial 2011 decision made by Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius barring anyone under the age of 17 from buying Plan B without a prescription. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> good evening. while we're a different country than the one we grew up in in many ways this was a big change today. tonight parents everywhere are taking notice of it. a federal judge ordered the so-called morning-after pill, emergency contraception for women and girls, be available regardless of age without a prescription over the counter in the drugstore. in other words, no questions asked. this is a medical issue. it's a social issue. it's a moral issue for a lot of people. it's where we begin tonight with nbc's stephanie gosk.

>> reporter: today's decision on the morning-after pill will not end the debate over teenagers and contraception.

>> i think it's very controversial.

>> reporter: barring an appeal, the legal battle over the drug and who should be allowed to buy it is over. the brooklyn federal court ruled the emergency contraception known as plan b will now have to be made available over the counter to women of any age -- even teenagers. this overturns a controversial decision made by health secretary kathleen sebelius in 2011 barring anyone under the age of 17 from buying plan b without a prescription. with with elections looming at the time, president obama agreed.

>> as the father of two daughters, i think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.

>> reporter: in today's ruling senior judge edward r. coreman called the decision politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent. reproductive rights advocates say it is a victory for women. it takes the drugs out from behind the pharmacy counter and puts them on the shelves alongside aspirin and tylenol where they are accessible to everyone. critics worry sexually active teenagers will have open access to a contraceptive that does nothing to prevent sexually transmitted diseases .

>> young people are primarily the group contracting sexually transmitted diseases . this is a huge public health problem and plan b , if anything, aggravates it.

>> reporter: there is disagreement among mothers, too.

>> we are the parents. we should have a say in what they do.

>> children should be able to go to their parents for these types of decisions, but not all young people have an adult in their life that they can go to.

>> reporter: the fda has 30 days to put plan b , a pill that costs about $50 for each dose, on the shelves. the justice department said it is still deciding whether or not to appeal the decision.

>> stephanie gosk starting us off tonight.