Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception

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Om March 3, 1973, , the U.S. Congress
passed the Comstock Act, criminalizing the
publication, distribution, and possession of
information about contraception. In the intervening
century, everyday women fought hard
for their birth control rights. They marched
and picketed, were arrested and jailed, and
saw their clinics raided and ransacked. Event
u a l l y, they succeeded in legalizing birth control.
But it was not until 1965 that the U.S.
Supreme Court made contraceptives legal for
married women and not until 1972 that contraceptives
were legalized for unmarried
Our mothers and grandmothers fought to
legalize contraception, but that legal right
means less and less in a world of rising health
care costs and plummeting wages that make
contraception unaffordable for many women.
To d a y, we fight for accessible and aff o r d a b l e
contraception. In 2003, Champaign County
Health Care Consumers, Planned Parenthood,
and dozens of other groups throughout
the state joined to pass statewide legislation
that requires all health insurance plans in Illinois
to cover prescription contraceptives.
Millions of women throughout the state now
have access to prescription contraceptives.
But we know that regular methods of contraception
are only about 98% eff e c t i v e
(depending on the method). Throughout the
course of their lives, many women will have
their regular method of contraception fail,
have unprotected sex, or be sexually assaulted
and need timely access to affordable emergency
contraception. With this in mind, in
May 2004, we began the Campaign for
Access to Emergency Contraception.
E m e rgency contraception (or EC) is a special
dose of ordinary birth control pills that
can prevent unintended pregnancy when
taken up to five days after unprotected sex,
contraceptive failure, or sexual assault. EC is
not a substitute for correct use of regular contraception
and provides no protection against
HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted
While EC can be taken up to five days
(120 hrs) after unprotected sex, it is most
e ffective the sooner it is taken. For instance,
EC can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 95%
when taken within 1 day (24 hrs) and up to
89% when taken within 3 days (72 hrs). Dr.
Kim Glow, a specialist in adolescent and
young adult medicine said, “Emergency Contraception
is every woman’s right, and health
care providers need to inform their patients of
this very important pregnancy prevention
o p t i o n . ”
EC is not an abortafacient. If a woman is
already pregnant, EC
will not work. EC can
only prevent, not terminate,
a pregnancy
because EC works by
inhibiting ovulation,
fertilization, and/or the
implantation of a fertilized
egg. A c c o r d i n g
Samantha Hack-Ritzo,
a volunteer for the
campaign, “The A m e rican
Medical A s s o c i ation
defines pregnancy
as the implantation of a
fertilized egg. EC should never be confused
with an abortion because EC has no affect on
an already implanted, fertilized egg.”
Since a woman must currently have a prescription
to get EC, many women cannot get
EC in time for it to be effective. For this reason,
the Campaign for Access to EC has
launched an effort to make EC available to
women without a prescription. There are two
ways to do this – (1) on the national level,
F D A approval of EC for sale over- t h e –
c o u n t e r, and (2) on the state level, legislation
that would allow pharmacists to dispense EC
to women at the pharmacy without a prescription.
In December 2003, the Food and Drug
A d m i n i s t r a t i o n ’s expert panel convened to
consider an application to make EC available
o v e r-the-counter voter 24-3 to approve Plan
B (a specific brand of EC) for sale over- t h e –
c o u n t e r. However, the FDA c o m m i s s i o n e r,
whose signature is needed for approval,
caved to political pressure from the Bush
administration and right-wing members of
Congress and refused to sign off on the recommendation
of the expert panel, citing concerns
about EC and teen sexual activity.
University High School senior and EC
o rg a n i z e r, Lauri Feldman, disagrees with the
F D A C o m m i s s i o n e r’s decision, saying that
young women need access to health care and
information, “It’s important for high school
students to be involved in EC advocacy, for
their own education, to help educate their
peers. Without correct information, teens
c a n ’t be expected to
make informed decis
i o n s . ”
Barr Laboratories,
makers of Plan B,
have since re-applied
to the FDA with a
revised application
that stipulates that
women 16 and older
could get EC over- t h e –
c o u n t e r, while women
15 and younger would
be required to obtain a
prescription. While the
Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception
believes that all women of reproductive
age should have access to EC over- t h e –
c o u n t e r, we are pushing for FDAapproval of
this application as a first step in increasing
w o m e n ’s access to EC.
H o w e v e r, we also believe that women in
Illinois don’t have time to waste waiting for
the FDA to approve EC for sale over- t h e –
c o u n t e r. Instead, we’ve proposed state legislation
– Illinois House Bill 6577 – that would
allow pharmacists to dispense EC to a
woman without a prescription. Six other
states currently have similar laws and those
laws have already helped more women
access EC.
The Campaign for Access to Emerg e n c y
Contraception recently launched its push for
F D A approval and state legislation at a rally
for EC on T h u r s d a y, October 28th at Mini
Park II in Champaign. The rally was attended
by over 150 people, including community
members, high school and college students,
physicians, religious leaders, and parents.
At the rally, organizers distributed the
results of a survey of all Champaign County
pharmacies. The survey indicated that while
many Champaign County pharmacies stock
EC, many (such as Ta rget,Wal-Mart, Meijer,
and Provena Covenant) refuse to fill prescriptions
for EC. Parkland College student and
representative of the Student Alliance for
Multicultural Education, Rachel W h i t e –
Domain said, “Some pharmacies refuse to
stock EC because they say it’s ‘controvers
i a l , ’ but you don’t see pharmacies refusing
to stock Viagra because it’s controversial.”
Protestors called on all pharmacies to stock
EC, chanting “Ta rget, Ta rget, can’t you see,
we want you to stock EC!!”
Local physician, Dr. Anne Robin, wrote
EC prescriptions for women on the spot. A
delegation of women then went across the
street to Osco Drug Store to fill their prescriptions,
and returned, holding their prescriptions
in the air as the crowd cheered
them on.
If you need emergency contraception, call
Planned Parenthood at (217) 359-8200 or
visit www. p p e c i . o rg. If you are a UIUC student,
you can get EC at McKinley Health
Center by calling (217) 333-2700 or visiting
w w w. m c k i n l e
If you live outside Champaign-Urbana,
you can get EC by calling 1 (800) NOT- 2 –
L ATE or 1 (800) 230-PLAN, or by visiting
w w It is strongly encouraged
to get a prescription for EC ahead of
time to keep on hand in case of an emerg
e n c y.
For more information on the Campaign
forAccess to Emergency Contraception, contact
BrookeAnderson at (217) 352-6533, ext.
17 or Yo u
can also visit the campaign’s website at
w w w. h e a l t h c a r e c o n s u m e r s . o rg/EC.

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