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Moral decay or a victory with easier distribution of emergency contraceptives?

Supporters and opponents react to an FDA change in the way an emergency contraceptive is distributed. (Photo by Justin Sullivan)

UPDATE 5/1/2013 4:45 The Justice Department will appeal an order lifting age limits on morning-after pills.

Women over the age of 15 will soon be able to buy emergency contraception the same place they’d pick up aspirins or cough drops without a prescription.

“I think that’s crazy,” says one mom.

“There never should have been restrictions on girls,” says a health rights advocate.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved selling Plan B One-Step – also known as the morning-after pill – to be sold as an over-the-counter medication.

Customers have to be age 15 or older and show a driver’s license, but they will not have to ask a pharmacist for it.

Prior to this week’s FDA decision, women have had to ask a pharmacist for emergency contraception. Those under 17 could get the pill only with a prescription.

“They’re saying, if you want to get rid of your kid at the age of 15 that’s okay,” says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.

Donohue says this is another example of the nation’s moral decline.

“Government in a free society is supposed to be an agent of virtue, not of moral delinquency,” Donohue says. “At some point, our society is going to realize we are not holding people accountable in terms of responsibility.”

Parent Julie Onorato doesn’t like the idea that an adult’s approval will not be needed in order to get the Plan B pill.

“Most young women don’t understand what they’re getting involved in and without parental guidance a lot of bad things can end up happening,” she says.

Others support allowing girls as young 15 to purchase the morning after pill over the counter without a prescription.

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization For Women, thinks the FDA should go one step further.

“There should not be an age restriction for access to emergency contraception,” she says, “and quite frankly it is younger teens in crisis who are most vulnerable.”

“While we fully support this decision, we continue to believe that the age restriction should be lifted and they should not have to show ID,” adds Eric Ferrero of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The morning after pill is intended to be used when other contraception fails, such as when a condom breaks.

The pill works by preventing a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterine wall. But it must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It cannot terminate an existing pregnancy.

Unless the FDA recommendation is appealed, the change could take effect as early as May 5.


CBS Radio contributed to this report

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