Eighty percent of all US women who go to emergency rooms after being sexually assaulted are not given emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, according to a study released Monday by Johns Hopkins University. Another 42 percent are not screened for sexually transmitted diseases or given drugs to prevent infection, the study concluded. “This points to a need for hospital emergency rooms to develop better programs for medical management of sexual assault patients or to refer patients to other hospitals that have developed this expertise,” said Dr. David Bishai, who helped lead the study.
Emergency contraception can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 89 percent if taken within the first 72 hours of unprotected sex. This small window of time makes hospital emergency rooms a crucial vehicle for the pills, especially for sexual assault survivors. Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-MD) has introduced the “Compassionate Care for Female Sexual Assault Survivors Act” (HR 4113). This bill would require hospital emergency rooms to offer emergency contraception to sexual assault survivors or risk losing their federal funding.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has also launched a nationwide campaign to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter to women nationwide. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.PrescribeChoice.org.