Our Bodies, Our Blog

Progress and Setbacks in Sexual Assault Survivors’ Access to Emergency Contraception

By Rachel Walden |

A bill that would have required Pennsylvania hospitals to make emergency contraception and information on the drug available to rape victims has been withdrawn from consideration. Despite compromises that would have allowed religious hospitals to use third-party advisors to work with women on obtaining emergency contraception, Rep. Daylin Leach withdrew the bill because it appeared that there was not enough support from fellow Representatives to pass the measure. A similar bill in Wisconsin is expected to pass, perhaps this month, and the state’s Governor has indicated that he will sign off on the law. However, an amendment has been added that would allow hospitals to opt out for religious reasons. Supporters of the bill are working to have the amendment removed. The National Conference of State Legislatures updated their 50 State Summary of Emergency Contraception Laws in October of this year; the resource includes a state-by-state list of provisions related to pharmacies, insurers, and providers of emergency care to sexual assault victims. This may serve as a handy guide to your rights in your state, and suggest states in which further advocacy and action is needed. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted … More

Newly Appointed Acting Surgeon General Played Role in Holding Up OTC Sale of Emergency Contraception

By Rachel Walden |

Dr. Steven Galson, former Director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (the agency’s drug review and approval arm), has been appointed to the position of Acting Surgeon General, and is expected to begin the post today. Dr. Galson’s selection for the post has raised concerns from reproductive health advocates, given Galson’s role in the years of delay that preceded the 2006 approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B emergency contraception. His appointment follows recent complaints about the political pressure placed on past Surgeons General to avoid raising such issues as emergency contraception and sexuality education. Galson issued the FDA’s 2004 “not approvable” letter in response to the Plan B maker’s application for OTC status, citing concerns about young women’s access to the drug. He was criticized for this initial ruling when it became known that “he rejected not only the judgment of an advisory panel but also the recommendations of his own staff when he refused to allow a morning-after pill to be sold over the counter.” Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowWhen the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed the decision-making process leading up to the … More

Hobby Lobby store in Stow, OhioHobby Lobby store in Stow, Ohio

Smoke and Mirrors and Women, Oh My

By Guest Contributor |

by Katherine L. Record Last week, the Supreme Court attracted lots of attention when it heard arguments about whether a corporation can exclude mandatory preventive benefits from its employee health plan, based on a religious objection to certain types of healthcare. This is a tale as old as time; religion has long been the basis for opposition to reproductive (i.e., women’s) health – including the preventive healthcare now in question, contraception. Yet this argument has nothing to do with government infringement on the practice of religion. In fact, the corporation, Hobby Lobby, covered two of the four contraceptive devices in dispute until its lawyers were actually arguing the issue in court, apparently to little detriment to the company’s faith in God. What’s more, Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) includes more than $73 million invested in the companies that produce these objectionable contraceptives (e.g., intrauterine devices, emergency contraception). This has not stopped Hobby Lobby from arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is threatening its freedom, as a corporation, to practice religion. This is a clever argument. We take religious freedom seriously, as we should. Masking coverage of FDA-approved contraceptives, as the ACA requires, as an infringement on faith is catchy. Nonetheless, it … More

Studies Look at Access to Family Planning Services Provided at Federally Qualified Health Centers

By Rachel Walden |

A pair of newly published studies in the journal Contraception look at the types and access to family planning services provided at community health clinics that are considered a popular primary care option for low-income women of reproductive age. The studies, produced by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health, examine the services at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). These health clinics provide primary and preventive care on a sliding scale, primarily to low-income and uninsured patients. It’s also worth noting that when states attempt to defund Planned Parenthood clinics, these are clinics to which many women may get directed for care. The authors anticipate that these health centers will become an even more important part of care as the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented and Medicaid is expanded. One of the co-authors is Dr. Susan Wood, who resigned her post as director of the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health in 2005 in protest over delays in approving over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowIn the first study, “Scope of Family Planning Services Available in Federally Qualified Health Centers,” researchers surveyed several hundred FQHCs about on-site … More

Headlines about the “Pullout Generation” Are Premature: Studies Show Multiple Methods of Contraception Use

By Rachel Walden |

A recent article in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology has led to some catchy headlines calling today’s young, straight women “the pullout generation.” The researchers looked at data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth for 2,220 sexually active female respondents ages 15–24 years and found that almost 1 in 3 of those surveyed reported using withdrawal as a method of contraception during at least one month of the study. (It’s not clear how girls who were not having sex with male partners were included or excluded.) What the study-inspired headlines don’t explain, though, is that very few of these respondents relied only the “pullout” method to prevent pregnancy — maybe even fewer than in older studies. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowSo it is really accurate to call today’s young women the “Pullout Generation?” Almost 9 out of 10 withdrawal users also used other methods, either simultaneously or at some other point in the study. And let’s not forget that 69 percent of those surveyed always used other methods, such as condoms and the pill. Those who used withdrawal at any point were more likely to have unintended pregnancies, and more likely to … More

State by State: Laws Restricting Abortion and Family Planning as of Mid-2013

By Rachel Walden |

If you’re having trouble keeping up with the assault on abortion rights across the states, you’re not alone. While we’ve been hearing a lot out of Texas, and some from North Carolina and Ohio, many other states have enacted regulations restricting access to healthcare. These include obstacles such as requirements for hospital admitting privileges for providers, bans on medication abortions by telemedicine and abortion after 20 weeks, and biased counseling laws — requiring, for instance, that women be provided with information falsely linking abortion to breast cancer. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowOther new laws, such as restrictions on family planning funding, have further affected women’s access to reproductive health services. How bad is it? According to updated information from the Guttmacher Institute, states enacted 106 provisions related to reproductive health and rights in the first six months of 2013 alone. This includes 43 restrictions on access to abortion — the second-highest number ever at the mid-year mark, and as many as were enacted in all of 2012. Guttmacher points out a glimmer of sunshine as well: Among the numerous restrictions, some states saw new laws to expand comprehensive … More

Pros and Cons of Making the Birth Control Pill Available Without a Prescription

By Rachel Walden |

This month, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement calling for oral contraceptives to be sold over-the-counter, no longer requiring a doctor’s prescription. ACOG considered a host of issues, including the safety of birth control pills; whether pharmacists could screen for who shouldn’t get them, or if women could self-screen; adherence to taking the pill; whether women would skip other preventive care if they didn’t visit a health care provider for a prescription; and cost. Notably, ACOG addresses frequent objections to OTC oral contraceptives by concluding that “several studies have shown that women can self-screen for contraindications,” and “cervical cancer screening or sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening is not required for initiating OC use and should not be used as barriers to access.” Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowAs Kevin Drum points out at Mother Jones, most countries outside of North America and Europe do not require a prescription for these drugs. ACOG notes, though, that making the pill non-prescription might increase the cost for women who have health insurance — especially since under health care reform, contraception can be purchased without a co-pay. Over-the-counter costs … More