Tuesday, March 25, 2008, marks the seventh annual Back Up Your Birth Control Day, a national day of activism to raise awareness about emergency contraception (EC, also known as “the morning-after pill”). EC is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse, including contraceptive failure or rape. Despite recent actions increasing access to EC, barriers remain.
What You Can Do to Participate in Back Up Your Birth Control Day
If you would like to get involved with Back Up Your Birth Control Day just follow these simple steps:
1. Find out where your state stands when it comes to EC.
2. Send the ACLU’s action alert supporting the Prevention First Act, which calls for increased access to and awareness of EC, to your member of Congress.
3. Visit the Back Up Your Birth Control Web site to get more ideas on how you can get involved.
The Status of Emergency Contraception
- In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration made EC available at the pharmacy without a prescription to women 18 and older who present government-issued proof of age. Because EC is kept behind the counter, women still depend on pharmacy department employees for access. For women under the age of 18 and adult women who do not have government-issued proof of age, a prescription is necessary to obtain EC.
- Several states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington) have a law or regulation that permits participating pharmacists to prescribe EC. In those states, women of all ages (including those who do not have government-issued proof of age) can obtain the medication directly from a pharmacist without a physician’s prescription.
- The federal government refuses to ensure access to EC for rape survivors and women in the military. The Department of Justice has repeatedly ignored efforts by reproductive rights and sexual assault victims’ advocates to include information about EC in the national protocol for treating sexual assault survivors. A woman who has just survived a sexual assault is already in crisis. She should not have to face the added burden of possibly becoming pregnant as a result of rape. Likewise, in 2002, the Department of Defense removed EC from its Basic Core Formulary, making it much less likely that the drug will be stocked on military bases. At a time when we are expecting so much from our women service members, we should be doing everything possible to meet their basic health care needs.
- EC continues to make headlines across the country about pharmacists or pharmacies refusing to fill valid requests for EC. In response to reports of women facing refusals, many states have considered ways to address the problem. Consistent with the ACLU’s commitment to reproductive freedom and religious liberty, a law or regulation should require pharmacies to ensure that any lawful and appropriate request to purchase birth control is satisfied on-site without added delay. Imposing a mandate on pharmacies, and not individual pharmacists, permits the pharmacy, in many cases, to accommodate the religious beliefs of its employees while preserving the rights of customers to access their medications.