ACLU Releases Manual for Improving Access to Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault Survivors

July 18, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK– The American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project and the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania today released a new manual to help advocates determine whether hospitals in their states provide emergency contraception (EC) to sexual assault survivors and to use this information to increase access to EC.

“”All hospitals should provide emergency contraception to rape survivors, but unfortunately many do not,”” said Jennifer McAllister-Nevins, State Strategies Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “”Rape survivors have already suffered greatly. Not providing EC puts a survivor at risk of pregnancy, adding to her trauma.””

Surveys in Texas and Pennsylvania found that more than two-thirds of hospitals do not provide EC to rape survivors. Many simply refer survivors to another hospital or give her a prescription to obtain EC on her own. These alternatives are not sufficient, the ACLU said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that hospitals should provide EC to all sexual assault survivors, McAllister-Nevins noted.

If taken promptly, EC is up to 89 percent effective in preventing pregnancy following unprotected sex, according to the medical journal Lancet. But only four states – California, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Washington — have laws that require hospitals to provide EC to sexual assault survivors.

Because of the failure of hospitals to provide EC, more than 30,000 women in the United States get pregnant each year following a sexual assault, according to a study published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“”When we conducted a survey of hospitals in Pennsylvania, we learned that less than 30 percent of hospitals provided EC to rape survivors,”” said Carol Petraitis, Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project. “”Following our efforts, the number of hospitals providing EC to rape survivors increased by 64 percent.””

The manual released today is part of a broad-based effort to increase access to EC, the ACLU said. It takes advocates step-by-step through the process of surveying hospitals in a state and provides instruction for developing education materials, media campaigns, and legislative initiatives aimed at changing emergency room policies.

The report’s table of contents is online at /node/22024

A copy of the manual, E.C. in the E.R.: A Manual for Improving Services for Women Who Have Been Sexually Assaulted, can be obtained by contacting the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project at (212) 549-2633 or

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