Governor Richard Codey of New Jersey recently signed legislation that will require hospitals in the state to inform sexual assault victims about emergency contraception (EC) in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy after rape. The law will also require all New Jersey hospitals to dispense EC to patients who request it, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. This legislation, referred to as “Compassionate Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault,” makes New Jersey the fifth state with such a law, joining New York, Washington, California, and New Mexico, according to Women’s eNews.
The Justice Department’s recently released guidelines 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. Ninety-seven US members of Congress, led by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), sent a letter in January 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.
The Congress members’ letter to Diane Stuart, Director of DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women, said 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.”