WASHINGTON (CNS) — An April 5 decision by a New York federal judge to lift age limits on purchases of over-the-counter emergency contraceptives should be “appealed and overturned,” according to an official of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said a U.S. District Court judge's decision giving 17-year-olds over-the-counter access to the morning-after pil l known as Plan B "will put minors' health at greater risk." McQuade is pictured in a 2005 photo in Washington. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“No public health consideration justifies the unregulated distribution of such drugs to children,” said Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro Life Activities.

“Many studies have shown that wider access to ’emergency contraception’ among young people does not reduce pregnancy or abortion rates, but can contribute to higher rates of sexually transmitted disease,” she said in a statement.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn, N.Y., said that within 30 days, the Food and Drug Administration must make emergency contraceptives available to women of all ages.

Korman said the case wasn’t about the potential misuse by 11-year-olds of the contraceptive called the morning-after pill or “Plan B.” He said the number of girls that age likely to use the drugs was minuscule.

Plan B, known generically as levonorgestrel, uses large doses of birth-control pills to prevent conception up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.

In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B to women 18 and older; three years later, a court ruling made it available to women 17 and older without a prescription. Until Korman’s ruling, anyone younger still needed a prescription.

According to McQuade, “Plan B does not prevent or treat any disease, but makes young adolescent girls more available to sexual predators.”

She said the court’s action “undermines parents’ ability to protect their daughters from such exploitation and from the adverse effects of the drug itself.”

Sean Fieler, chairman of the Pro-Life Commission of the Archdiocese of New York, similarly disapproved the decision saying it takes away from parents “their legitimate rights to know what medical care and medications their children are receiving.”

“As a society, we properly regulate the decisions that children can make on their own, and so a child can’t be given an aspirin without parental supervision, get an ear pierced, or, here in New York, even use a tanning bed! But now young girls can be given these strong dangerous abortion-inducing drugs without a parent’s approval, or even a doctor’s supervision. This is very sad and simply wrong,” he said.

Korman’s decision came in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights over a decision by the Obama administration to set the age limit on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives.