World briefly 6/21


FDA approves OTC sale of morning-after pill

WASHINGTON — The morning-after pill is finally going over-the-counter.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step, lifting all age limits on the emergency contraceptive.

The move came a week after the Obama administration ended months of back-and-forth legal battles by promising a federal judge it would take that step. Women’s health advocates had pushed for easier access to next-day birth control for more than a decade.

“Over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States,” FDA drug chief Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement announcing the approval.

It wasn’t clear how quickly Plan B One-Step would move from behind pharmacy counters to sit on drugstore shelves. Until now, customers could buy that morning-after pill and competing generic versions without a prescription only if they proved to a pharmacist that they were 17 or older. FDA said the product will have to be repackaged to reflect the change; maker Teva Women’s Health didn’t immediately respond. FDA has not lifted age limits on competing generics.

Taliban offer to free captured US soldier if conditions met

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition Thursday to joining planned peace talks.

The idea of releasing these Taliban prisoners has been controversial. U.S. negotiators hope they would join the peace process but fear they might simply return to the battlefield, and Karzai once scuttled a similar deal partly because he felt the Americans were usurping his authority.

The proposal to trade U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban detainees was made by senior Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail in response to a question during a phone interview with The Associated Press from the militants’ newly opened political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf nation of Qatar.

The prisoner exchange is the first item on the Taliban’s agenda before even starting peace talks with the U.S., said Suhail, a top Taliban figure who served as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad before the Taliban government’s ouster in 2001.

“First has to be the release of detainees,” Suhail said Thursday when asked about Bergdahl. “Yes. It would be an exchange. Then step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward.”

‘Homosexuality rehab’ group closes down

The leader of Exodus International, a Christian ministry that worked to help people repress same-sex attraction, has apologized to the gay community for inflicting “years of undue suffering.” He plans to close the organization while launching a new effort to promote reconciliation.

“The church has waged the culture war, and it’s time to put the weapons down,” Alan Chambers told The Associated Press on Thursday, hours after announcing his decision at Exodus’ annual conference and posting his apology online.

“While there has been so much good at Exodus, there has also been bad,” Chambers said at the conference. “We’ve hurt people.”

Based in Orlando, Fla., Exodus was founded 37 years ago and claimed 260 member ministries around the U.S. and abroad. It offered to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer, infuriating gay rights activists. Exodus had seen its influence wane in recent years as mainstream associations representing psychiatrists and psychologists rejected its approach.

By wire sources