Emergency Contraception Awareness Campaign Bill Offered
A group of U.S. lawmakers led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) yesterday introduced legislation that would provide $10 million over five years to the CDC for a government-sponsored awareness campaign about the availability of emergency contraception, Reuters Health reports. Under the measure, called the Emergency Contraception Education Act, the campaign would be geared toward making women and doctors more aware of EC, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Surveys show that only about 12% of women know about the drug, which works by blocking either ovulation, fertilization or the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining. It does not terminate already-established pregnancies, though supporters of the drug say it is often confused with mifepristone, the drug used to induce a chemical abortion. Murray drew that distinction yesterday when announcing the legislation. "This is not an abortion bill, and in fact it would reduce the number of abortions," she said. EC is available without a prescription in California and Washington state, and Slaughter said she would eventually like to see the drug become available without a prescription nationwide. "That obviously is the goal we have in mind here," she said (Zwillich, Reuters Health, 3/6). The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy filed a petition last year with the FDA to approve over-the-counter status for EC, which is sold under the brand names Plan B and Preven (CRLP release, 3/6). The petition is "still under review," according to FDA spokesperson Susan Cruzan (Cooper, Women's Enews, 3/7).