New Mexico last Thursday became the fourth state-joining Alaska, California, and Washington-to allow direct dispensation of emergency contraception (EC) by pharmacists. The move came less than two months after Gov. Bill Richardson signed the Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault Survivors Act, requiring emergency rooms to provide EC information and access for sexual assault survivors, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.
The latest activity surrounding EC signifies growing awareness of the safe and effective drug, a concentrated dose of birth control hormones that is up to 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, contraception failure, or rape. Last month, Women's Capital Corporation, makers of the emergency contraceptive Plan B, submitted their request to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking over-the-counter status for Plan B. Meanwhile, Gynetics, the maker of the EC Preven, told the New York Times it too expects to attain over-the-counter status by the end of next year. Already, EC is available without a prescription in Albania, Belgium Denmark, Finland, France, Israel, Morocco, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, and the UK, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Still, many EC proponents argue that barriers continue to persist, in spite of laws expanding access. In California, only 670 of 5,200 pharmacies signed agreements with physicians to dispense the drug directly. Moreover, many that do charge a $20 to $40 "consulting fee" beyond the $25 to $30 retail drug cost. Joan Hall, a lobbyist for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), criticized the practice as being "highly discriminatory and predatory" considering the absence of such fees for other drugs, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Many pharmacies in California are also now asking women to complete an 11-item questionnaire, which the Pharmacy Access Partnership insists gives pharmacists information for future referrals. Opponents argue the questions are irrelevant and intrusive. Sen. Jackie Speier (D) who is sponsoring legislation to prohibit the consulting fee, cap dispensing fees, and free pharmacists from any obligation to maintain patient-medication records, explained to the LA Times, "It's about discrimination that exists in reproductive health for women." Questionnaires and consulting fees do not accompany dispensations of Viagra.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .