Emergency contraception (EC) is a safe, proven and effective way to prevent pregnancy after birth control failure or unprotected intercourse. EC contains a large dose of the same hormones found in the birth control pill and can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse.
The most commonly used forms of EC, Plan B and Ella, reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89 percent if taken within 72 hours — or three days — after birth control failure or unprotected intercourse. Despite the proven effectiveness of EC, barriers to access continue to be a problem across the United States.
Barriers to EC Access
Many women still face difficulty accessing EC. Age limitations place further burdens on young women. The United States has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy of any developed country. EC holds tremendous potential for dramatically reducing the number of unintended pregnancies among teens, which would mean fewer abortions – a goal on which everyone should be able to agree.
Emergency Contraception is NOT an Abortion Pill
The battle over access to emergency contraception is complicated by widespread misunderstanding about what the drug. In public debate, EC is confused — often intentionally, by anti-abortion proponents –with the medication abortion option, mifepristone. The distinction between the two is important. Emergency contraception is exactly what it sounds like – contraception. It prevents pregnancy, whereas Mifepristone terminates an existing pregnancy.
- Find out more about the differences between Mifepristone and EC.
Important Legislation on EC in California
California Planned Parenthood Education Fund has been working to improve access to EC since it first became available in the United States. California was one of the first states to allow pharmacists to dispense EC without a prescription, and CPPEF is proud to always be on the cutting edge of increasing women’s access to the most effective methods of affordable birth control.
SB 644: SB 644 ensures that women have access to EC without conflicting with the religious freedom of pharmacists. Authored by Senator Deborah Ortiz, SB 644 established protocols for those pharmacists who claimed a religious or moral objection to dispensing medication such as EC. While it does not require the pharmacist to dispense EC, it does require that she or he arrange for the woman to get her medication from a different pharmacist in a timely manner.
AB 1169: AB 1169, authored by Assemblymember Dede Alpert in the 2001, was a great victory for reproductive healthcare. AB 1169 made California one of the first states to allow women access to EC without a prescription (The FDA had not yet approved EC for over-the-counter status at that time). This legislation made it possible for women to access EC more quickly, especially on weekends and holidays when they might not be able to see a doctor to get a prescription.
AB 1860: Assemblymember Carole Migden introduced AB 1860 in the 2001 in response to serious concerns over how survivors of rape were being treated in emergency rooms across California. Despite the victory of AB 525 in the previous legislative session, women taken to emergency rooms after being raped were still being denied access and even basic information about emergency contraception.