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US government files appeal to delay unrestricted sales of morning-after contraceptive pill

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - The Obama administration on Monday filed a last-minute appeal to delay the sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill to girls of any age without a prescription.

The legal paperwork asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to postpone a federal judge's ruling that eliminated age limits on the pill while the government appeals that overall decision.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman has said politics was behind efforts by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to block the unrestricted sale of the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill and its generic competitors.

Last month, he ordered that the levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be made available without prescription and without age restrictions. He then denied a request to postpone his ruling while the government appealed but gave it until Monday to appeal again.

Government attorneys warned that "substantial market confusion" could result if Korman's ruling was enforced while appeals are pending. On Monday, lawyers argued that the district court "plainly overstepped its authority," and that they believe they will win the overall appeal.

Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights have said in court papers that every day the ruling is not enforced is "life-altering" to some women. They have 10 days to respond to the most recent government filings, after which the appeals court will issue a decision.

The appeals court will take up the issue on May 28 and said the judge's ruling remains postponed.

If the government fails, it would clear the way for over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill to younger girls. The FDA announced earlier this month that the contraception could be sold without a prescription to those 15 and older, a decision Korman said merely sugarcoated the appeal of his order lifting the age restriction.

Sales had previously been limited to those who were at least 17.

The judge said he ruled against the government "because the secretary's action was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent" and because there was no basis to deny the request to make the drugs widely available.

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