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Dec 3, 2012
Let me tell you a little story about my relationships with Emergency Contraception, or EC.
Since I have been sexually active, I have been a consistent birth control user, advocate too as I might add! For about a year I was the proud how to a Nuvaring each month. I loved it! I specifically loved that I could take it out for up to an hour without any decrease in effectiveness.
As easy as the Nuvaring is, there were still times I made mistakes using it. I was half way to Cleveland Pride in 2011 when I realized I didn’t have my trusty ring-shaped friend with me. I believe I literally said, “stop the car! We need to go back, I forgot my Nuvaring!” Another time I had taken it out, and then fallen asleep. I woke up the next morning, reached for my cell phone to turn off my alarm, and then realized what I was touching was not a phone but my Nuvaring.
Did I have unprotected sex? How long has it been out? Questions started to pile on, and I started to get worried. OK, I thought, I have to be in to work in an hour which gives me time to run by the drugstore to buy emergency contraception (EC) before I need to get there. I called the pharmacy, they confirmed that taking EC would be the best plan of action. I made it just in time to get my EC before heading into work. This is how me and EC became friends.
My experience with EC was pretty smooth. Sadly, this is not true for all women in the US. My experience was made easier because I was older, married, had health insurance, a state issued ID, a car, a steady income, and a little extra time. Now imagine a similar instance happened to a younger woman, one under 18. Before they could access this safe and possibly life-change medication they would have to jump through several hoops.
Hoop one: They would have to meet with their doctor to get a prescription. For me, It takes AT LEAST two weeks for me to get in with my doctor (which is a whole other conversation about the US healthcare system). Therefore, who knows if they could even get an appointment with their doctor within the 72 hour time frame in which EC is most effective.
Hope two: A younger person would have to face more stigma regarding EC use. Even as an adult, I was a little nervous calling the pharmacy and talking to a stranger about my birth control accident. Not just an adult, but former sexual health educator and Planned Parenthood employee! Luckily the person I spoke to was understanding.
A younger woman would be much more likely to face a judgmental look or tone of voice from the doctor or pharmacists. Not to mention that the woman might have to tell her parents about using EC, and not all young women have relationships with their parents that allow open and honest conversation about sexual health.
The experience of a young woman accessing EC could have been different and better this time last year. The Reproductive Health Technologies Project stated:
In December of 2011, the FDA was prepared to make emergency contraception accessible to consumers without restriction, based on more than a decade of medical research and policy debates. Instead, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA, putting politics ahead of women’s health. Her decision created unnecessary confusion for women and couples at a moment when clarity and timing matter most.
The bottom line is, EC is safe, and can make an incredible difference in the life of a woman. When I needed EC my husband was in law school, and I was not in a place to support him and a child financially, emotionally or physically. It would have even been harder for me if I was 17.
There are things you can do today to let policy makers know that you oppose unfair restrictions to accessing EC for young women.
Help protect reproductive rights for young women, but taking action today!