Feminists campaign for Morning-After Pill access
November/December 2003

On December 15, 2003, the Food and Drug Administration will hold hearings on whether women in the United States will be able to walk into their local drugstore and buy the Morning-After Pill without a prescription-a right that women in dozens of countries have already. An FDA decision is expected in February.

The Morning-After Pill (MAP) is a higher dosage of regular birth control pills that when taken up to 120 hours after sex can be up to 75-89 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. Often women who cannot take regular birth control pills can even take the Morning-After Pill because many of the health effects of regular birth control result from daily use over long periods. Most women have no side-effects from the Morning-After Pill. It is most effective, however, when taken in the first 24 hours after unprotected sex.

Sixty organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), say it should be available over-the-counter, next to aspirin and cold medicines. But in the U.S., in most states, a women must first visit a doctor to get a prescription. Critics point out that this is an unreasonable requirement for a medication which is most effective 24 hours after sex. (In California and Washington, pharmacists can dispense it.)

Requiring that the Morning-After Pill be a prescription drug restricts its availability to women several ways. First, it drives up the price of obtaining it because the cost of a doctor's appointment is added to the cost of the drug itself.

Women point out that even if you can get an appointment, some doctors won't prescribe it and some pharmacists won't fill it for religious reasons. Women at the University of Florida have considerable experience with this-in 1991 a pharmacist at the UF Infirmary refused to fill Morning After Pill prescriptions, citing his religious beliefs. After much protest from the Campus National Organization for Women, the University asked him to resign.

Women who have taken it report few side-effects (nausea being the most notable) and regard the Morning-After Pill as a good backup birth control method. Still, they note that there are problems with every form of birth control. "Women often face subtle or overt resistance from men to wearing condoms, for example-so women need every option at their disposal, including the Morning-After Pill and abortion."

NOW chapters, including Gainesville Area NOW, Campus NOW, and New York State NOW are working to build up grassroots pressure on the FDA. This includes speakouts, like the one held in Gainesville on November 5, compiling testimonies from women to submit to the official FDA hearing record, and working to get women to attend the meeting in December, which will be held in Washington, D.C.

Will the FDA approve it? NOW says, "Unless there is an outpouring of pressure from women (and men), the FDA will buckle under to anti-woman right wingers who want to restrict women's lives."

You can join the national campaign by sending your testimony about Morning After Pill availability to the email address below, contact Gainesville Area NOW or Campus NOW to get involved in the campaign, 377-2301 or campus_now@hotmail.com

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