NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the government’s effort to restrict the availability of birth control pills by mandating that they be dispensed by licensed pharmacies violates the constitutional right to privacy and violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The U.N. General Assembly has already approved the use of a generic form of the contraceptive pill and the Obama administration announced it was moving to begin the rollout in June.
A federal judge ruled in January that the National Institutes of Health had violated a federal law requiring the government to grant federal agencies broad access to scientific research and that the FDA had been in violation of the U-M’s obligation to protect the privacy of Americans.
The judge said that the U.-M and its partner, the Catholic health organization, were required to provide contraceptive coverage to women who are seeking birth control and the government did not comply.
“The government has violated the privacy rights of these women and their families, and the courts have no authority to intervene,” U.K. District Judge William Alsup said in a ruling.
Alsup ordered the government not to use the new generic form to dispense the pill and to pay the Catholic-run group $2.6 million for costs incurred by the government, including $1.8 million in fines.
The government said it will appeal.
The contraception pill is available without a prescription at more than 1,300 pharmacies nationwide, including about 1,200 in the United States.
It is a highly effective form of birth-control that can prevent pregnancies for up to five years and prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
The National Institutes are among the agencies that administer the pill.
It has been approved for use in developing countries by the World Health Organization and other organizations.
In his ruling, Alsup noted that the birth control pill is a “contraceptive in the first instance,” not a contraceptive, and that “the government’s asserted purpose of ensuring that women have access to the pill, which is a generic medication, does not involve preventing pregnancies.”
The U-MA said it would appeal the ruling.
The Catholic health group said it is reviewing the ruling and will make a statement on its own.