A study by researchers at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles demonstrated that teenage mothers who are given an advance supply of emergency contraception are less likely to get pregnant, Reuters Health reported Wednesday. All of the teenagers in the study group were given education about emergency contraception (EC), but only half were given an advance supply. Six months later, eleven percent less teenagers with an advance supply of EC than those who were just given education had become pregnant. Running contrary to concerns of EC critics, the teenagers with an advance supply of EC were no less likely to use condoms.
EC is a concentrated dose of birth control hormones that is up to 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, contraception failure, or rape. EC could prevent 1.7 million unintended pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions by 800,000 in the United States alone, according to a 1998 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite this drug’s incredible potential to advance women’s reproductive health care, 9 out of 10 women of reproductive age do not know about emergency contraception and only 1 out of 5 physicians regularly discuss it with their patients, according to Planned Parenthood Federation of America. So-called “conscience clauses” permit doctors and pharmacists to refuse to prescribe or dispense emergency contraception, further restricting women’s access to this important drug.
Women’s Capitol Corporation, the makers of Plan B, the progestin-based form of EC, will be submitting paperwork in April to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting that Plan B be made available over the counter. The Feminist Majority Foundation is submitting petitions in support of this important initiative to expand and protect women’s reproductive rights. As Dr. Anita L. Nelson of the UCLA School of Medicine told WebMD Medical News, “Requiring a visit to the doctor for a medication that is safer than aspirin or Tylenol makes no sense. Women have to be aware that this is out there and they have to get it in their medicine cabinets, just like bandages, before they need it.”
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