By Sam Baker - 05/02/13 12:03 AM EDT
The Obama administration will appeal a court decision that required the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the controversial contraceptive known as Plan B available to women of all ages without a prescription.
A federal judge ruled last month that the FDA had no scientific basis for a policy that said Plan B could only be sold without a prescription to women 17 and older.
The agency lowered the age to 15 on Tuesday — a move that women's health groups called constructive but still lacked a solid scientific foundation.
The agency said its decision was not a response to the court's ruling striking down age limits. And the Justice Department will defend the agency's authority to impose age limits as it appeals the ruling.
Justice also asked the appeals court to block the lower court's ruling from taking effect until the appeal is decided.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit challenging the FDA's age restrictions, slammed the appeal.
“We are deeply disappointed that just days after President Obama proclaimed his commitment to women's reproductive rights, his administration has decided once again to deprive women of their right to obtain emergency contraception without unjustified and burdensome restrictions," the group said in a statement.
The FDA tried in 2011 to make Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages, but was overruled by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusThe chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ Sebelius: 'Repugnant' for states to reject Medicaid expansion MORE.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, also said age limits should be removed entirely.
“The Obama Administration took an important step forward earlier this week by moving emergency contraception out from behind the pharmacy counter and making it available to people ages 15 and older, and we continue to believe that access should be expanded further," Richards said in a statement.
— This story was updated at 10:39 p.m.