With a re-election campaign already in high gear, President Bush would do well to finally live up to his pledge as a "compassionate conservative" and request that the Food and Drug Administration permit emergency contraceptive pills to be sold without a prescription. Scientific advisers to the FDA meet later this month on this very issue.
ECPs are ordinary birth control pills that significantly decrease a woman's chance of becoming pregnant when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. ECPs should not be confused with Mifeprex (also known as RU 486) - Mifeprex is an early option for nonsurgical abortion, while ECPs prevent pregnancy and thus reduce the need for abortion. In fact, increased use of ECPs could reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by half annually.
ECPs meet all of the FDA's criteria for over-the-counter drugs: they are safe, effective, easy to use, and have no harmful long-term side effects. The American Medical Association (AMA) supports over-the-counter access to ECPs. As the AMA's Council on Medical Service has stated, over-the-counter access to ECPs is especially critical for "the large number of women who have limited access to health care services, who are uninsured, and who have no established relationship with a physician. For these women, having emergency contraception available over-the-counter may be the most appropriate way for them to have adequate access to the pills."
Making ECPs available over-the-counter will vastly increase access to this important option and help to improve women's health.
Timothy D. Stanley
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota
Affiliate NARAL Pro-Choice America
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