A survey of Pennsylvania hospital emergency departments shows that only one in three hospitals routinely offer emergency contraception (EC) to survivors of rape, and half of these hospitals have no standard procedure for counseling patients about EC. Moreover, at many hospitals, the provision of EC is entirely dependent on the will of individual physicians. Women who utilize Catholic hospitals are even less likely to be offered EC. Of Catholic hospitals, only 6 percent routinely offered EC to sexual assault victims or had procedures in place to counsel women on EC. “It is unsettling that so many victims of sexual assault aren’t even being counseled about emergency contraception, much less offered it,” said study author Dr. Ashlesha Patel of the University of Illinois at Chicago. “The standard really should be routine [counseling and provision].” According to Dr. Patel, rape results in an estimated 25,000 unintended pregnancies each year. A great proportion of these pregnancies could be avoided through the use of EC, which can prevent pregnancy when used within 72 hours of sexual intercourse.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has launched a nationwide campaign for over-the-counter emergency contraception. To learn more or to join our campaign, visit www.PrescribeChoice.org.