News Releases

Murray, Clinton, and Slaughter Introduce Bill to Inform Women about the Availability of Emergency Contraception

Sep 27 2007

Currently, 1 in 3 women are unaware of emergency contraception; Murray, Clinton, Slaughter bill would initiate a large-scale education campaign

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) introduced Senate legislation that will raise awareness about the availability of emergency contraception also known as Plan B® or the "morning-after" pill. The bill authorizes an education campaign to better inform women and healthcare providers of emergency contraception. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has already introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Today, too few women know about emergency contraception because many doctors, hospitals and pharmacists are not providing women with the information they need to understand and access it," said Senator Murray. "By raising awareness of the availability of emergency contraception we will help protect women's reproductive health, reduce unintended pregnancies and decrease the number of abortions."

“I was proud to work with Senator Murray in the fight for an FDA decision on emergency contraception last year.  Research shows that emergency contraception is safe and effective for preventing pregnancy. More than 70 major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, recommend that Plan B be made available over the counter. And yet, women across the country continue to face access and awareness obstacles when it comes to EC.  I am pleased to support this legislation that will help women gain information they deserve,” said Senator Clinton.

“Greater awareness of and access to EC helps women prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortions in the United States; a goal on which we can all agree" Rep. Slaughter said. "EC has been available over the counter for women 18 and older for more than a year now.  Yet, barriers to information and access still prevent many women from obtaining and appropriately using EC. We can and must do more to overcome these challenges and ensure women are empowered to make knowledgeable decisions about the reproductive health."

Emergency contraception is a concentrated dose of ordinary birth control that can dramatically reduce a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant if taken soon after sex. Emergency contraception does not cause abortion; rather it prevents pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation, fertilization, or implantation before a pregnancy occurs. Emergency contraception is safe and effective, and last year the FDA approved over-the-counter sales of the medication for individuals ages 18 and up. Senator Murray and Senator Clinton played a critical role in getting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide that approval after long delays by placing a hold on the Bush Administration's nominee for FDA Administrator.

According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 1 out of 3 women of reproductive age in the United States remain unaware of the availability of emergency contraception. At present, less than 18 percent of hospitals provide emergency contraception at a woman's request without restrictions, and only one in five ob/gyns routinely discuss emergency contraception with their patients.

Each year 3 million pregnancies, or one-half of all pregnancies in the United States, are unintended. Half of these end in abortion. If emergency contraception is taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, it can reduce the risk of pregnancy by as much 89 percent.

Senator Murray's bill directs the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish an Emergency Contraception Public Education Program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The program would provide a description of emergency contraception and an explanation of its use, safety, efficacy and availability to nonprofit organizations, consumer groups, institutions of higher education, Federal, State, or local agencies, clinics and the media.

The bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).