Mar 022005
 
Authors: Hallie Woods

Emergency contraception, or EC, has been among the topics of controversy both in the Colorado legislature and the Food and Drug Administration.

State House Bill 05-1042 requires hospitals to inform sexual-assault victims about emergency contraception as well as assist in attaining access to the drug.

"Planned Parenthood supports the bill 100 percent. It's imperative that a sexual-assault victim is given their options," said Daniel Kessler, public relations representative for Planned Parenthood, 825 S. Shields St.

The bill states, "each year, between 25,000 and 32,000 women in the United States become pregnant as a result of a sexual assault." The bill, if passed, is expected to reduce about 22,000 of these unwanted pregnancies through EC education.

"I think EC should be as accessible as possible. It has hardly any side effects, and even if it wasn't available over-the-counter, someone should be able to get it from the pharmacist," said Dr. Susan Wolfelt of the Hartshorn Health Service Women's Clinic.

However, some feel people may become reckless with their actions if they know the drug is readily available.

"I don't think it should be a method of birth control, which is what some people will use it for," said Meghan Betz, a junior sociology major.

The impending FDA decision would allow women 16 years of age and older to gain access to Plan B Emergency Contraception without a prescription. Plan B is 89 percent effective at preventing pregnancies, according to an informational brochure by Planned Parenthood.

Emergency Contraception comes in two forms: pills and a vaginally inserted IUD. Some birth-control pills can be used as EC, but there is also the option of Plan B – a hormone form used only for emergency contraception.

According to the brochure by Planned Parenthood, EC works by stopping ovulation, fertilization or implantation. However, in order for EC to be effective, it must be administered within the first 120 hours after unprotected sex. Although there are some side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness, the safety of the drugs is rarely questioned.

"EC is considered to be as safe as normal birth control because it is just a higher dose," Kessler said.

EC is available at several locations in Fort Collins, including Planned Parenthood and the Hartshorn Women's Clinic. EC is available at Hartshorn for $12.50 and requires a brief consultation. Planned Parenthood also offers the Hormone Optional Pelvic Exam program, allowing women to gain access to birth control and EC without having a pelvic exam.

Health centers have also set up the option of calling a toll-free number, 1-888-NOT-2-LATE, to provide names and numbers of the five nearest EC providers.

Kessler wants to continue education about EC, which she said does not affect a fertilized egg already embedded in the uterine wall and will not terminate a pregnancy.

"It is important to clarify that EC is not the same as an abortion," Kessler said.

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