Members of Congress Urge Inclusion of EC in Federal Sexual Assault Guidelines

Ninety-seven US Lawmakers, led by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), sent a letter Tuesday to the Department of Justice, 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). The letter, to Diane Stuart, Director of DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women, says that “by failing to even mention … [emergency contraception] as a potential option for sexual assault victims, the department ignores a crucial opportunity to provide vital and time-sensitive health care to victims of rape and sexual assault.” 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. The Justice Department’s recently released guidelines don’t mention offering EC to rape victims – an omission that has spurred criticism from many women’s, civil liberties, and health groups across the country.

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Kaisernetwork.org 1/14/04; Newsday.com 1/1/04

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