Wonderful News for Women: Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception On Its Way

06/11/2013 03:29 pm ET | Updated Aug 11, 2013

Just last night, the Obama administration announced that the FDA will comply with a federal judge's order to make emergency contraception available over the counter for all women, with no age restrictions.

It's only fitting that this decision comes less than a week after we celebrated the 48th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark Supreme Court Case that led to the legalization of birth control for unmarried couples, and months before the Affordable Care Act puts a full range of no-copay preventive care within reach for more women than ever -- even as millions are already benefitting.

This is a historic moment for women's health -- and a huge step forward in Planned Parenthood's work to expand access to birth control. Hopefully, with this decision, women all over the country will soon be able to walk into a pharmacy and pick up emergency contraception off the shelves, as soon as they need it -- no barriers, no shame.

For years, we've seen misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding the debate over Plan B and other forms of emergency contraception. To be clear: Emergency contraception does not end a pregnancy. In fact, every major medical institution, including the FDA, states unequivocally that Plan B One-Step and other types of emergency contraception are safe, effective forms of birth control that work by postponing ovulation -- they do not, and cannot, induce an abortion.

Finally, studies show that emergency contraception is just as safe for teens as it is for adults -- and that teens understand it isn't intended for ongoing, regular use. Young people don't become sexually active at an earlier age or have more unprotected sex when they have access to emergency birth control.

Every year, nearly 750 Planned Parenthood health centers across the country serve almost 3 million patients -- 2 million for birth control information or supplies. Making emergency contraception available over-the-counter will make a difference for women who need to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, sexual assault, or if another form of birth control fails. It's good science; it's good policy; and it's absolutely the right thing to do.

About 50 years ago, Planned Parenthood's own Estelle Griswold was arrested for running a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut. Soon, women in the United States will be able to use emergency contraception at their own discretion, on their own terms. This is how we measure progress.

We encourage the companies who manufacture Plan B One-Step and other forms of emergency contraception to apply quickly for new labeling to reflect this important step - and we encourage the FDA to approve their applications right away.

In the meantime, Planned Parenthood and other providers of sexual and reproductive health care are celebrating this decision for what it is: wonderful news for women.