The “Best Help for Rape Victims Act” was introduced last week to require the Department of Justice to include emergency contraception (EC) in the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examination. The first-ever national medical guidelines for treating sexual-assault victims omitted EC as an option to prevent unwanted pregnancies, despite the inclusion of such references in earlier versions of the Protocol. The bill, introduced by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chris Shays (R-CT), Diane E. Watson (D-CA) and James R. Langevin (D-RI,) aims to ensure that information about EC will be provided to assault victims to prevent pregnancy. The legislation also aims to make EC available on-site if requested by the victim.
In January, 97 US lawmakers, led by Rep. Maloney, sent a letter to the Department of Justice strongly urging this revision of the new guidelines. Maloney was denied the opportunity to speak at a public hearing in February to call attention to the omission of EC from the national guidelines. According to a press release from Maloney’s office, she was deprived of the right to submit or leave her written testimony at the site, and was additionally threatened to be removed by security.
“We should be doing everything we can to help rape victims recover from sexual attacks, not withholding important health information from them,” said the Congresswoman in a recent press release. “Apparently, the Justice Department has a different set of values.” The statement goes on to note that an estimated 25,000 of the 300,000 women who are sexually assaulted each year will become pregnant as a result. Regularly offering EC to rape victims could avert up to 22,000 unplanned pregnancies every year, many of which may otherwise result in abortion. EC is most effective if taken within five days after unprotected sexual intercourse, when a condom breaks, or after a sexual assault, though it is most effective (95 percent) if taken within 24 hours.