Massachusetts Hospitals Hinder EC Access for Rape Survivors
Though Massachusetts state law mandates that hospitals offer emergency contraception (EC) to rape survivors, a recent survey reveals that it may not be readily accessible in all state emergency rooms. Fourteen percent of Massachusetts hospitals required women to consult a doctor or take a rape exam before receiving EC.
�These policies are problematic because they leave open the possibility that a rape survivor may not have access to EC at a particular hospital,� said Melissa Kogut, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. They also impede rape survivors� �access to time sensitive and critical pregnancy protection,� said Liza Sirota White of Jane Doe, Inc.: The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, which cosponsored the survey.
NARAL had rape counselors call each of the state�s 69 emergency departments in February and March 2006 and ask about the availability of EC. Seven percent of hospitals reported that they let physicians decide whether to distribute EC to the rape survivor, while another seven percent of the hospitals only offer EC to women who undergo a rape exam. Five of the nine Catholic hospitals in the state had at least one of these restrictions.
The state law that allows physicians to dispense EC to rape survivors of all ages without a prescription was approved in September 2005. This November, emergency contraception became available on a nonprescription basis nationwide for women over 18. However, the Massachusetts law still benefits rape victims who may not have known that EC was an option or who may not be able to obtain EC on their own � such as women who are under 18, without an ID, or need a prescription for insurance coverage.
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SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
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