A federal judge in New York ordered the FDA on Monday to make the morning-after pill available to 17-year-olds without prescription.
U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman said the record "is clear that the FDA's course of conduct regarding Plan B departed in significant ways from the agency's normal procedures regarding similar applications to switch a drug from prescription to non-prescription use."
Korman also urged the FDA to consider making Plan B available to all females regardless of age.
Reproductive rights supporters hailed the ruling.
"We're very excited," said Suzanne Novak, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
"The message is clear: The FDA has to put science first and leave politics at the door. We are encouraged that the FDA, under new leadership, when they look at the evidence, will remove the unique barriers that have been in place," Novak said.
But the conservative Family Research Council says the ruling jeopardizes girls' health and the ability of their parents to care for them.
"Now some minor girls will be able to obtain this drug without any guidance from a doctor or without any parental supervision. We lack scientific studies on the long-term effects of Plan B with respect to high dosage and repeated use in both women and adolescents," said Chris Gacek, Family Research Council's senior fellow for regulatory affairs.
"There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to women, especially sexually abused women and minors, under coercion or without their consent. Interaction with medical professionals is a major screening and defense mechanism for victims of sexual abuse," he added.
"The availability of Plan B over-the-counter also bypasses the routine medical care of sexually active girls and women, which is important to allow screening for other health conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases."
Sources: The Washington Post, Family Research Council