Studies Released on EC, Controversy Continues in States

US minority women are less informed about emergency contraception (EC), also known as the “morning-after” pill, according to a new study by ACOG. In a survey of 330 black and Latina women 18 years and older, only eight percent had “some knowledge” of EC, 22 percent had “very little knowledge,” and 70 percent had “no adequate knowledge,” reported Reuters Health. However, most of those surveyed (94 percent) indicated interest in learning more about EC and family planning courses. Study author Dr. Danny W. Shaban, who attributed the disparity between minority and white women to varying media outreach, suggested that public health clinics and schools assume greater responsibility in disseminating EC information and that physicians also incorporate EC awareness into patient visits.

In a related study, also presented at the ACOG meeting, researchers found that women given a supply of EC versus just a prescription were more likely to use the medication to prevent pregnancy. Study author Dr. Eliza Ng told Reuters Health, EC should be a staple in any reproductive-age woman’s medicine cabinet.

Last week Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) issued a memorandum to state colleges insisting that dispensation of EC at university clinics does not violate Virginia’s informed consent abortion law, which requires women to receive select information and wait 24 hours before undergoing an abortion. His statement came after James Madison University (JMU) last month stopped providing EC at the student health center, because of a letter from anti-abortion Delegate Robert Marshall (R-Manassas), claiming the drug causes abortions. In fact, EC prevents pregnancies by interrupting fertilization or preventing implantation, and the pills do not terminate an existing pregnancy. Kilgore’s memo said each college’s board of visitors should be responsible for deciding EC dispensation in campus clinics.

Meanwhile, a bill approved this week by the Hawaii Legislature requiring hospitals to provide EC to rape victims has prompted threats of legal action from the state’s sole Catholic hospital system, St. Francis Healthcare System, reported the Honolulu Advertiser. St. Francis, claiming religion grounds, does not provide birth control or abortion services. Gov. Linda Lingle has not issued a decision on the bill.

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Associated Press 5/9/03; Reuters Health 4/29/03, 4/30/03; Kaisernetwork 4/22/03, 5/15/03; Honolulu Advertiser 5/10/03; Feminist Daily News Wire

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