New Legislation Would Improve Access to Emergency Contraception for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation this week to make emergency contraception more widely available to survivors of sexual assault.

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The Emergency Contraception Access and Education Act of 2014, co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), would require hospitals that receive federal funding – including Catholic hospitals – to tell sexual assault survivors who go to the emergency room that emergency contraception (EC) is available to them and to provide EC to survivors regardless of their ability to pay.

Murray has introduced a similar bill every year for more than a decade. In that period of time, EC became more accessible when the FDA approved Plan B One-Step to be sold over the counter to all ages. But, despite some improvements in access to EC, Murray says that there are still far too many women and girls who either do not know about the drug or who don’t know how properly to use it, including one in four teenagers who do not know that EC exists as an option.

“Emergency contraception is a safe, responsible and effective means of preventing unintended pregnancies – a goal we all should share,” said Senator Murray. “Unfortunately, in spite of its increased availability, emergency contraception remains an underused prevention method in the United States, especially for survivors of sexual assault.” It is estimated that between 25,000 and 32,000 women in the US become pregnant as a cause of rape every year in the United States.

Currently only 17 states and the District of Columbia require that emergency rooms offer information on EC to rape survivors, and only 13 states and the District of Columbia require emergency rooms to offer EC on request by the survivor. To amplify the need for federal legislation on this issue, advocates launched a twitterstorm on Tuesday using the hashtag #ECinER.

In addition to improving access for survivors, the bill would also direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a campaign to educate the public about EC and to distribute information on EC to pharmacists and other health care providers.

Media Resources: RH Reality Check 9/24/2014; News Release for US Senator Patty Murray 9/23/2014; Feminist Newswire 6/11/2014; Twitter

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