Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) was prevented from testifying on Thursday about the need to include information on emergency contraception in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) guidelines for the treatment of sexual assault victims before an advisory committee working to strengthen the federal Violence Against Women Act. Rep. Maloney was told that if she did not leave, security would escort her out, according to her office. A spokesman for DOJ told Newsday that Maloney was asked to leave because she had not registered to speak in time. “Today’s unfortunate incident raises questions about the basic willingness of the Justice Department to hear public comment on its decisions regarding women’s health,” Maloney said in a statement released by her office on Thursday.
The Justice Department’s guidelines, published for the first time last September, currently do not mention offering EC to rape victims – an omission that has spurred criticism from many women’s, civil liberties, and health groups across the country. Last month, 97 US lawmakers, led by Maloney, sent a letter to Diane Stuart, Director of DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women, in which they “strongly urged” the revision of its new guidelines for the treatment of sexual assault survivors to include information about emergency contraception (EC). Maloney said, “It is clear that the administration’s ideological opposition to choice now even extends to rape victims. Women who are sexually violated at the very least deserve the right to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”
EC is exceedingly safe and effective if taken within 5 days but it is most effective (95 percent) if taken within 24 hours after any unprotected sexual intercourse, when a condom breaks, or after a sexual assault. EC has the potential to cut in half the 3 million unintended pregnancies in the United States each year and prevent as many as 800,000 abortions a year. In some states, such as New York, hospitals are bound by law to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.