According to Reuters, the number of women who say they have used emergency contraception has more than doubled – from about 4% in 2002 to 10% in less than 10 years. This is likely due to the decision to make the “morning after pill” available over the counter. In other words, when you make contraception safe, accessible, and affordable*, people will use it, thereby preventing the unintended pregnancies that often result in termination.
If you are under 17, you must have a prescription, which requires a doctor’s note, which in many cases requires involving a parent. EC also needs to be taken within 120 hours (5 days), and the sooner, the better. If you’ve ever tried to get an appointment with your doctor in a timely manner, you know how difficult that can be unless you show up at the emergency room having been both stabbed and shot – and even then, you’re probably behind a guy with a tree trunk through his torso. This arbitrary rule would seem to indicate that teenagers’ contraceptive needs are not as important to lawmakers as the ongoing desire to (inadequately) police their morals and values.
Let us be clear: emergency contraception is called that for a reason. It is contraception. If you are pregnant, it will not terminate the pregnancy. It is the equivalent of a condom, or the pill – but it can work after those have failed, preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg. It is the “oops the condom broke” answer we never used to have. It is the “crap – did I take my pill this morning??” you may not need to panic about the answer to. Emergency contraception is a lovely solution to the impasse between “I don’t want to get pregnant” and “I got pregnant and don’t want to be pregnant.” If the goal is really to lower the number of abortions people have, the simplest, most graceful solution is to lower the number of unintended pregnancies. Lawmakers, take note: promoting the availability, accessibility, and affordability of contraception serves to prove that people want to make the best decisions for themselves. Catch your policy up to our reality.
*According to Planned Parenthood, the pill can cost $10-$70. Imagine how helpful it is to have it covered by insurance or a co-pay. It can cost up to $250 if you’re under 17 and need a doctor’s visit and a prescription – imagine how many young people could prevent a pregnancy and avoid an abortion entirely if some strange moral social code decided that access was better for them than an unintended pregnancy!