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Coalition Pushes for Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception

A coalition of more than 60 medical and reproductive rights groups filed a petition this morning to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declaring emergency contraception (also known as the “morning-after pill”) safe, and urging over-the-counter availability of the drug. Since 1998, emergency contraception pills (ECPs) have been available in the U.S. only with a doctor’s prescription; in many European countries, most recently Britain, ECPs are available over-the-counter.

The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) is legally representing the organizations filing the Citizen’s Petition. CRLP staff attorney Bonnie Scott Jones said, “Emergency Contraception is safer than aspirin and just as easy for women to use. The prescription requirement prevents women from accessing emergency contraception, which hasthe potential to cut in half the nearly 3 million unintended pregnancies that occur in this nation every year.”

ECPs are high-dose birth control pills taken within 72 hours of intercourse; they prevent fertilization, or the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. Organizations filing the petition today that include the CRLP, the American Medical Association, NARAL, and Feminist Majority Foundation, note that wider access to ECPs could cut the U.S. unwanted pregnancy rate in half. Currently, the makers of Plan B, one of two ECPs prescribed in the U.S., are undertaking government-sanctioned studies to prove that ECPs are safe for over-the-counter use, and hope to gain FDA approval by next year.

Sources:

Associated Press Ð February 14, 2001 and Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, Press Release Ð February 7, 2001 and NARAL, Press Release Ð February 14, 2001 and NARAL, ÒEmergency Contraceptive Pills Should be Available Over-the-CounterÓ

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