Women’s health advocates expressed concern about HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ recent decision to overrule the scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and deny over-the-counter access to the morning after pill for women of all ages. But new research suggests that even women who can legally access the drug without a prescription — women over the age of 17 — may have a hard time obtaining it:
Although the researchers found the availability of emergency contraception did not differ based on neighborhood income, in 19 percent of calls the adolescent was told she could not obtain emergency contraception under any circumstance. This misinformation occurred more often (23.7 percent compared to 14.6 percent) among pharmacies in low-income neighborhoods.
When callers queried the age threshold for over-the-counter access, they were given the correct age less often by pharmacies in low-income neighborhoods (50.0 percent compared to 62.8 percent). In all but 11 calls, the incorrect age was stated as erroneously too high, potentially restricting access.
Existing laws offer conscience protections to medical providers, exempting doctors, nurses, and pharmacists from providing services that undermine their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers and presidential contenders have vowed to strengthen these regulations, which would have the effect of keeping contraception further out of reach of the women who need it.
Aaron Carroll has more: “If they did have the drug available, which occurred 759 times, once callers revealed they were 17 years old, almost 20% were told that they couldn’t have emergency contraception. Legally, of course, they could have. But they were ‘misinformed’. Further analysis looking at the relative income of people living near the pharmacy found that people who lived in poorer neighborhoods were more than 60% more likely to be incorrectly told they couldn’t have the drug because they were too young than people who lived in more affluent neighborhoods.”