Announcing that, “A woman’s right to choose must never be held up by red tape,” California Governor Gray Davis ordered the state’s health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to cover emergency contraception (EC). The California Department of Managed Health Care will alert all HMOs that they will now be required to cover EC distributed through pharmacists within HMO networks as well as EC dispensed in emergency situations through pharmacists outside of the networks. The order is intended to increase women’s access to EC, which can prevent unintended pregnancy if taken within 72-hours of intercourse. Access to EC, however, may continue to be limited. Of the more than 15,000 pharmacists in the state, only 700 are able to prescribe EC, according to Jane Boggess, Director of Pharmacy Access Partnership. Pharmacists must complete a certification program before being able to prescribe EC pills.
EC has the potential to prevent up to one-half of the 3 million unintended pregnancies in the U.S. each year, but very few women are even aware of this option. Only 2 percent of women aged 18 to 44 had ever used EC according to a 2000 survey, and few physicians discuss this option with their patients. The Feminist Majority Foundation has launched a nationwide campaign to increase access to EC by making it available over-the-counter and mainstreaming its use. To learn more, visit www.PrescribeChoice.org.