Advocates Throughout the Country Urge States to Ensure Access to Emergency Contraception for Rape Victims
Local Officials Must Step in Where Federal Government Has Failed to Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
> TomPaine.com: Twice Victimized (12/20/2005) (off-site)
> Model Protocol Letter
> RaisingHerVoice.org (off-site)
NEW YORK – Sexual assault groups, legislative officials, medical groups, women’s health advocates, and civil liberties groups throughout the country today launched statewide campaigns urging governors and other state officials to adopt protocols for treating sexual assault survivors that ensure access to emergency contraception (EC).
“If the federal government is going to turn its back on sexual assault survivors, then it is up to the states to ensure that rape victims can prevent pregnancy following an assault by giving clear guidelines to caregivers,” said Jennifer Nevins, State Strategies Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project. “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.”
Today’s action is a direct response to the federal government’s failure to include information about EC in its otherwise comprehensive national protocol for treating sexual assault victims released in December of 2004.
Early last year, the Department of Justice ignored requests by advocates and members of Congress to amend the protocol to include information about EC and pregnancy prevention. In August 2005, the ACLU sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the federal government on behalf of a broad coalition asking for documents that explain the omission of information about EC from the protocol. The government failed to provide responsive materials.
In today’s effort, advocates sent letters in seven states to officials asking them to “act where the federal government has failed to, making certain that [their state] protocol recommends victims of sexual assault be offered emergency contraception on-site in their initial exam.” In addition, today’s letters urge officials to advocate for increased funding in their state for medical staff that specialize in treating sexual assault patients.
Leading medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorse the offering of emergency contraception to rape victims. Research shows that if emergency facilities routinely provide EC to sexual assault survivors, up to 22,000 of the 25,000 pregnancies that result from rape each year could be prevented.
The advocates sent today’s letters in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.
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.
A sample of one of today’s state letters is available online: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/contraception/23529res20060119.html
For information about sexual assault survivors’ experiences obtaining emergency contraception, visit www.RaisingHerVoice.org, a project of the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
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