‘Fess Up to Your Confusion!

Guest blogger: Julie Petrella, Director, Duvall Reproductive Rights Project of the ACLU of PA

It never ceases to amaze me how confused people – doctors included – get about emergency contraception (EC). It doesn’t help that there are plenty of people spreading incorrect information about the medication on shows like “The View” on ABC-TV!! I pray (and I’m not particularly religious) that the majority of us, especially doctors and other medical professionals, are not getting information from places like “The View.” However, I’m not so sure my prayers are being answered.

When recently asked about the provision of EC to rape patients at his hospital, the Director of an Emergency Department responded, “You mean RU-486?” Folks, what is wrong with his response??? Well, if you are just as confused as this doctor (and it’s okay to be confused), I will be happy to tell you: EC is a form of contraception that can be used up to 120 hours after having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. It is also known as the morning-after pill. EC is different from the abortion pill or RU-486 because it cannot terminate a pregnancy. RU-486 terminates an established pregnancy.

As my interns and I are finishing up our survey of PA hospital emergency departments and preparing advocacy efforts for the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act, I hope that people will ‘fess up to their confusion. Don’t try to pretend that you know what EC is and how it works if you don’t know. We want to find all you confused folk (including doctors!) so we can help you get the facts straight. If you don’t give us that opportunity, we can’t enlist your help in supporting the CARE Act. And, if we can’t get your help supporting the CARE Act, then we can’t help survivors of sexual assault receive comprehensive medical care (including EC) in emergency departments. And, if we can’t pass the CARE Act, then we are putting sexual assault survivors through the additional trauma of denying them the option to prevent a pregnancy from their rapist. (Deep breath)

You see, the CARE Act will be up for a vote this fall. It is critical that you contact your legislator to ask that s/he support this important piece of legislation. So, you better be honest with yourself now about your understanding of EC. It may be up to you to make sure that your legislator doesn’t make the same mistake that the Director of an Emergency Department did! Visit www.pacare.org for more information about the CARE Act. I invite you to send me an email at Duvall@aclupa.org if you’re ready to make that first step and admit to your confusion.

If you’ve already passed EC 101, please help me educate others. Some opportunities for you to advocate for the CARE Act are waiting for you. I also hope you’ll attend the CARE Act Press Conference and Rally on Wednesday, September 13, 2006 at 11:30am at The Rotunda in the Capitol, Harrisburg, PA. Make it a priority to ensure that you, your friends, and the people who make our laws know the difference between EC and RU-486 so we can assist sexual assualt survivors, not put them through more trauma.