Only One Quarter of Hospital Emergency Rooms in Tennessee Always Provide Emergency Contraception to Sexual Assault Patients, ACLU Survey Finds

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 4, 2005 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE — Only one quarter of surveyed Tennessee hospital emergency rooms always provide emergency contraception to sexual assault patients, according to a new survey released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

“The purpose of the study was to assess the treatment of sexual assault patients in hospital emergency rooms throughout Tennessee and to determine the availability of emergency contraception for these patients,” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “The results will be used to increase public awareness about emergency contraception and to encourage emergency rooms to provide comprehensive health care to sexual assault patients.”

The ACLU of Tennessee, in conjunction with the Women’s Health Safety Network, conducted a telephone survey of all 126 hospital emergency rooms in the state during February and March 2005. 101 (or 80 percent) of the 126 ERs in Tennessee responded to the survey. Survey respondents included sexual assault nurse examiners, staff nurses, charge nurses, nurse managers, clinical supervisors and ER directors.

The study found that of these 101 ERs, only 26 facilities (26 percent) always provide emergency contraception (or EC) on site to sexual assault patients or refer to providers of comprehensive emergency care for rape survivors. Most of the 26 hospital ERs were located in urban areas of the state, suggesting that sexual assault patients in rural areas are especially underserved.

Emergency contraception is an FDA-approved safe and effective way to dramatically reduce a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant after unintended intercourse, including sexual assault. EC is a concentrated combination of regular birth control pills that contain hormones that reduce the risk of pregnancy when taken up to 120 hours after the incident.

According to the Women’s Health Safety Network, EC is widely recognized as an integral part of comprehensive and compassionate emergency treatment for sexual assault patients. The American Public Health Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American College of Emergency Physicians agree that EC should be offered to all sexual assault patients if they are at risk of pregnancy.

The Women’s Health Safety Network is calling for the Tennessee General Assembly to pass “The Emergency Care for Rape Victims Act of 2005” which would require hospital emergency rooms to provide EC for sexual assault patients. The Network’s members include the ACLU of Tennessee, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Memphis Regional Planned Parenthood, National Council of Jewish Women of Tennessee and Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault.

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