A decision is near on whether to allow women to buy the morning-after birth control pill (search) over the counter.

Backers of the pill have been seeking the federal action, arguing that easy access to the product, sold under the trade name Plan B, would prevent thousands of unwanted pregnancies.

But opponents argue that being able to obtain the product without a prescription could lead women, particularly young teens, to be more willing to experiment with risky sex.

The Food and Drug Administration (search) rejected the over-the-counter proposal last year, citing lack of information about the effect on teens.

The manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals (search), reapplied last July 22, proposing that Plan B be made available without prescription to women 16 and over. A prescription would still be required for anyone under that age.

The government has a goal of responding to such reapplications in six months, so a decision should come soon.

Neither side argues that the drug isn't safe or effective. It's a higher dose of the contraceptive hormones found in birth control pills. It prevents ovulation or fertilization and can keep a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus.