for release only until:
December 15, 2003
Contact: Linda Freeman, co-chair NOW New York State Reproductive Rights Task Force, 201.433.3085 or 216.849.3382 (cell)
Erin Mahoney, co-chair, NOW New York State Reproductive Rights Task Force ,212.216.1841
Kelly Mangan, vice president, University of Florida NOW, 850.445.4273 (cell)
Stephanie Segiun, vice president, Gainesville Area (Florida) NOW, 352.380.9934
(Washington, D.C., December 15, 2003) On December 16, 2003 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a hearing to determine whether women in the United States will be able to walk into a drug store and buy the morning-after pill.
The National Organization for Women-New York State has joined forces with Gainesville Area NOW and University of Florida Campus NOW to organize everyday women to testify at this hearing about their personal experience trying to access the morning-after pill. Because the FDA has limited the time allotted for the public to speak at this hearing, these organizations will hold a speak out and press conference outside the Hilton (620 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, MD) at 12:30 pm. Redstockings Allies and Veterans will co-sponsor the speak out.
Women will speak frankly about birth control, sex, men’s responsibility to wear condoms, doctors, pharmacists and why we need the morning-after pill over-the-counter.
The petition for the morning-after pill to be changed from a prescription drug to an over-the-counter medication was filed in 2001 by the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. Over 60 medical, feminist, and health organizations signed on to this petition. Two years passed and the FDA never responded to this petition. In 2003, Women’s Capital Corporation, the maker of “Plan B” (one brand of post-coital contraception), filed its own petition for over-the-counter status.
The FDA is finally heeding the call.
“The recommendation that will come out of this hearing could give women a powerful tool to control their reproductive lives.” said Erin Mahoney, co-chair of the NOW New York State Reproductive Rights Taskforce.
Women need immediate access to this back up method of birth control. The Morning-After Pill, also known as Emergency Contraception or Post-Sex Contraception, is equivalent to a higher than normal dose of daily birth control pills that can be taken up to 5 days after intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy. However, the effectiveness of this drug drops dramatically after only 24 hours.
Although the MAP is already over-the-counter in more than 27 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Denmark, it is available in the United States by prescription only. This requires women to get a doctor’s appointment and fill a prescription, all within a day. NOW New York State strongly supports the right of any woman to walk into any drugstore at any hour of the day or night and purchase the MAP off the shelf. The American Medical Association agrees that the MAP is safe over-the-counter.
We expect the FDA advisory panels to give this issue a fair hearing. But according to The Nation, “Three members of the eleven-member Reproductive Health Drugs committee believe contraceptives promote illicit sex... They are: Dr. Susan Crockett, who considers contraception a scriptural issue; Dr. David Hager, who advocates abstinence as the best birth control for unmarried women; and Dr. Joseph Stanford, who equates contraception and emergency contraception with abortion.” (The Nation, November 26, 2003.)
What do women say?
“When I went in search of the Morning-After Pill, the cost that I found in New York City was exorbitant. It ran from $50-$150 with the doctor’s visit. That was a big deterrent for me. So I had to consider, would it be the $50-$150 I didn’t have or would it be a month of sweating it out to see if I was pregnant and then the price of an abortion?” said one woman who has used the MAP.
“I had sex with my boyfriend and used condoms because I didn’t want to catch an STD. The condom either came off or broke and he didn’t say anything about it until afterwards, although I’m sure he felt it. I decided not to get the Morning-After Pill because I was very busy and would have to take time to wait at the doctor’s office. And I had heard that it would make you sick and vomit for days. I got pregnant and got an abortion a few months later. Since then I have taken the Morning-After Pill several times and never been sick.” said another woman.
When women compare experiences with the Morning-After Pill we have discovered that the side-effects of the MAP have been wildly exaggerated, that doctors often put up resistance to prescribing it, that anti-abortion pharmacists refuse to fill the prescriptions, and that many pharmacies do not have it in stock. Women also overwhelmingly share frustration that men resist wearing condoms.
Women need full access to the Morning-After Pill—the right to control when and if they have a child is a cornerstone of freedom and self-determination for women. Therefore, we demand:
1) Unrestricted, affordable, and OVER-THE-COUNTER access to the Morning-After Pill for all women (regardless of age) in stock in every drug store.
2) That men take their fair share of responsibility for birth control: men wear condoms without resistance (and without waiting for us to ask), pay for at least half of the method of birth control we use, and get checked for STDs at least once a year.
3) That doctors, pharmacists, hospitals and other healthcare providers give us comprehensive, non-judgmental, factual and accurate information about all forms of birth control and their side effects. We further demand that they ask men what forms of birth control they are using.
4) That reproductive choices be in women’s hands—not the hands of medical professionals, the government or men.
On December 16, 2003, women will speak publicly about these demands and their experiences with the Morning-After Pill, birth control, condoms, sex, men and doctors. Before the FDA panels make a recommendation, they need information from the REAL experts—women.