The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday announced that so-called "morning-after" emergency contraceptives will be available without a prescription for women aged 17 and older.
"Consistent with scientific findings since 2005 by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, FDA sent a letter to the manufacturer of Plan B that the company may ... market Plan B without a prescription to women 17 years of age and older," the FDA said in a statement.
The move lowers by one year the cut-off age for women to get the morning-after pill without a prescription.
In 2006, the emergency contraception pill was approved as an over-the-counter drug for women 18 and older by the FDA.
Younger girls are able to get the pill, which is meant to be used only when regular contraceptive methods fail or after unprotected sex, with a prescription.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, hailed Wednesday's decision to make the product known as Plan B available to women without a prescription starting from 17 as "commonsense policy."
"The US has the highest rate of teen pregnancy among the most developed countries in the world. Providing birth control, including emergency birth control, to young women helps them make responsible decisions and avoid unintended pregnancy," Richards said.
But the pro-life American Life League (ALL) said the decision was "irresponsible."
"Am I shocked? No. Do I think the FDA cares about women's health? No," said ALL president Judie Brown.
"This is another one of these irresponsible decisions that the Food and Drug Administration has made because they're somehow beholden to the drug cartel, and I think that's terrible," she said.