Legislators in Congress have introduced a bill that would require hospitals that receive federal funds to provide access to emergency contraception for sexual assault victims. The Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act was introduced in the House (H.R. 2527) on June 19 by Representatives Jim Greenwood (R-PA) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ) and introduced in the Senate (S. 1564) on August 1 by Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ). Rep. Greenwood summed up the importance of this bill in a statement to the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition, "The CARE Act is a compassionate piece of legislation that will assist thousands of women who are victims of assault each year, and its passage will help reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions."
EC is 95% effective in the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, failed contraception, or rape to prevent pregnancy by interfering with ovulation, fertilization, or implantation. Despite the time sensitive nature and documented benefits of EC, Sen. Corzine lamented in his introductory statement that a survey of New York emergency rooms found 54 percent did not routinely provide EC to sexual assault survivors, and a similar survey found the number was 72 percent in Pennsylvania. "I believe it is unacceptable that a rape victim's access to standard care depends on the hospital to which she is taken. All healthcare institutions that counsel or treat women who have been raped should consistently inform, provide or meaningfully refer women for emergency contraception."
The Feminist Majority Foundation, along with a host of other reproductive health and rights groups, including American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA), are advocating for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of over-the-counter status for EC so women can access this pill quickly and easily all over the United States. The Women's Capital Corporation, makers of Plan B, has submitted a request to the FDA for over-the-counter status and FMF is gathering petition signatures in support of their application. The FDA is expected to make its decision by early 2004.