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.
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .