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Japan panel weighs making morning-after pill available over the counter

The health ministry is debating whether to make emergency contraceptive pills available over the counter at pharmacies — more than a decade after their initial approval in the country — in a move that would bring Japan in line with over 90 other nations.

But the decision may be delayed due to a massive number of comments collected from the public. More than 46,000 comments were gathered in relation to the possible change, with 97% in favor of making the contraceptive available at pharmacies without a prescription.

Under the current policy, a visit to a medical institution and a prescription are required to purchase a morning-after pill. This can make access difficult because many clinics are closed on weekends, during holidays or at night, and those who don’t live near a medical institution may struggle to receive care in time for the pill to be effective.