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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Issue of emergency contraception as urgent, necessary as morning after pill “

Sex is on our minds, and it’s uncensored, seeing how this is one of several articles in the Wildcat this month on the topic of abortion or emergency contraception. Might this have something to do with the second year medical students and their eagerness to disclose every detail of their current block, Life Cycle? Probably. Were many of them confused by the controversy surrounding emergency contraception when they learned that it does not harm an established pregancy? Inevitably.

Catch that? Emergency contraception is not abortion. Like a condom or an interuterine device, it only prevents fertilization of an egg, and only about 75 percent of the time. Confusion may stem from the fact that the exact mechanism of action is unknown. Researchers think it may involve slowing sperm or inhibiting ovulation, but it has not been shown to interrupt or harm an established pregnancy.

The terms “”morning after pill”” and “”Plan B”” have become synonymous with emergency contraception. Unfortunately, one gives the false impression that treatment must wait until the next day, and they both imply that they are intended for use only after consensual, possibly unprotected sex. While millions of unplanned pregnancies each year do result from contraceptive failure, these lighter-hearted terms skirt the reality that “”emergency”” contraceptives are crucial to the emotional and physical well-being of nearly 100,000 rape victims reported by the FBI each year in the U.S.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco Center for Reporductive Health Research and Policy estimate that these violent sexual crimes result in about 25,000 pregnancies each year. This number represents a much higher estimate than was previously accepted, but it is well known that reported rapes constitute only a fraction of all that occur. The group at UCSF also believes that as many as 22,000 of these pregancies could be prevented “”if all women who were raped received prompt medical services.””

Sadly, this idealistic projection may never be a reality due to the fact that Catholic hospitals are among the largest healthcare providers in this country, seeing as much as 41 percent of emergency patients in some states, according to a study by Ibis Reproductive Health. On religious grounds, and in accordance with the Vatican, approximately two-thirds of these hospitals do not administer emergency contraception to victims of rape according to the Washington and Lee Law Review of 2003.

Many of the hospitals do allow discretion by the attending physician, and many regularly administer the drug but only after necessitating a police report and/or a pregnancy test. These practices not only delay a time-sensitive treatment, they all deviate from recommendations by the American Medical Association that recognizes and accepts the treatment as standard for the care of sexual assault victims.

The problem arises from the fact that Americans visit hospitals confident that medical decisions by the practitioners will be governed only by medicine, with full disclosure and only their best interests in mind. Regardless of the moral arguments supporting or opposing the practice of denying emergency contraception and without casting a series of all-encompassing judgments, women everywhere should tuck this information away into a file cabinet labeled “”need-to-know.””

— Andrew Kenyon Busch is a first-year doctoral student in physiological sciences.

He welcomes your agreements and rebuttals at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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