Yesterday, the Virginia Senate passed a measure that would allow pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives to women without a doctor’s prescription – a measure that passed the House earlier this year. The bill has broad bipartisan support, but lawmakers are still ironing out a key provision: a parental consent amendment that would require women under 18 to get the consent of a parent before receiving the pills. Delegate Viola Baskerville, the bill’s sponsor, says the parental consent amendment would mean the loss of $4 million in federal funds for family planning, since the federal family planning program used by Virginia clinics prohibits clinics that receive the funds from requiring parental involvement.
Emergency contraceptives are high-dose birth control pills taken within 72 hours of intercourse that prevent fertilization or the implantation of a fertilized egg. They have been available in the U. S. with a prescription since 1998, and are widely available over-the-counter in Europe. Reproductive health experts believe that wider access to emergency contraceptives could cut the U.S. unwanted pregnancy rate in half.