WASHINGTON -- The maker of a morning-after pill is about to begin government-sanctioned studies to see if the emergency contraception can sell without a doctor's prescription.
The maker of Plan B morning-after pills hopes the studies of hundreds of women will persuade the Food and Drug Administration to approve over-the-counter sales by next year.
The announcement comes as 60 medical and women's groups file an unusual petition with the FDA Wednesday declaring morning-after pills as safe as aspirin and urging they be sold without a prescription to help women prevent pregnancy.
The American Medical Association supports the change.
Women who are raped, whose regular birth control fails or who simply forget in the heat of the moment can take the so-called morning-after pill up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse.
Opponents, including the Vatican, contend emergency contraception is early abortion, and oppose teen-age access to the pills.
But proponents stress that emergency contraception doesn't cause abortion. If a woman already is pregnant, it won't work.
Taken quickly enough, the pills may prevent fertilization of an egg, said Dr. Paul Blumenthal, a Johns Hopkins University gynecologist and Planned Parenthood adviser. If fertilization already has occurred, the pills prevent an egg from implanting into the uterus, meaning the woman never becomes pregnant.
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