ACLU Says Colorado Governor’s Veto of Emergency Contraception Legislation Puts Politics Above Women’s Health

Affiliate: ACLU of Colorado
April 14, 2006 12:00 am

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DENVER — The American Civil Liberties Union today denounced a decision by the Governor of Colorado to veto legislation that would have allowed women to obtain emergency contraception (EC) directly from a pharmacist without needing a doctor’s prescription.

“Governor Owens’s decision to veto this bill puts politics above women’s health,” said Cathryn Hazouri, Executive Director of the ACLU of Colorado. “If we care about preventing unintended pregnancy, then we should do everything we can to make sure women can get the birth control they need, including EC.”

The bill in question, which drew the support of the Colorado Pharmacists Association and the Colorado Medical Association, would have allowed pharmacists to prescribe EC directly to women. In eight states – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington – women can receive EC directly from their pharmacist (Vermont is scheduled to join this list this summer.) Increased access to EC is particularly important because the window in which it is effective is so brief, the ACLU said.

In a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, Colorado ranked 40th in its efforts to help women avoid unintended pregnancy, and attempts over the last several years have been unsuccessful at expanding access to EC.

“Colorado had an opportunity to step up where the federal government has failed women,” said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Emergency contraception is a safe and effective form of birth control that all women should have access to, yet foes of reproductive rights continue to put up roadblocks at every juncture.”

Major medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommend that EC both be available over-the-counter and that it is offered to all victims of rape at risk of pregnancy. And yet, the Food and Drug Administration refused to allow the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. Also in 2004, the Department of Justice released a protocol for treating sexual assault victims that failed to include information about pregnancy prevention and EC.

Emergency contraception, often referred to as “the morning-after pill,” reduces the risk of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent if the first dose is taken within days of unprotected intercourse, but it is more effective the sooner it is taken.

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