By the end of the year, American women will be able to walk into any pharmacy and buy emergency contraceptive pills without a prescription as a result of a Food and Drug Administration decision announced yesterday.
The decision means women will not have to go to a doctor first as long as they can prove they are 18 or older to a pharmacist, who will keep the drugs behind a counter. Younger teenagers will still need a prescription, and the pills will not be sold at gas stations, convenience stores or other outlets that do not have pharmacists.
The approval marks the first time a hormonal contraceptive will be broadly available in the United States without a prescription. The pills, which will be sold as Plan B, will probably cost about $25 to $40 per dose, and men will also be able to buy them.
The announcement was aimed at resolving one of the longest and highest-profile health controversies of the Bush administration, but opponents said they are considering plans to block the decision, either in court or in Congress.