From WILL - The Public Square -

Lauri Feldman from Champaign, IL, on emergency contraception

My name is Lauri Feldman and I'm a senior at University High School.

I volunteer at Champaign County Health Care Consumers for the

Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception.

Our mothers and grandmothers fought to legalize contraception, but that legal right means less and less in a world of rising health care costs and plummeting wages that make contraception unaffordable for many women. In 2003, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, Planned Parenthood, and other groups throughout the state joined together to pass statewide legislation that requires all health insurance plans in Illinois to cover prescription contraceptives. However, throughout the course of their lives, many women will have their regular method of contraception fail, have unprotected sex, or be sexually assaulted and need timely access to affordable emergency contraception. With this in mind, in May 2004, we began the Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception. .

Emergency Contraception (or, EC) is a special dose of ordinary birth control pills that can prevent unintended pregnancy when taken up to five days after unprotected sex, contraceptive failure, or sexual assault. EC is not a substitute for correct use of regular contraception and provides no protection against sexually transmitted diseases. EC is not an abortafacient; if a woman is already pregnant, EC will not work and will have no affect on already implanted, fertilized eggs. EC can only prevent, not terminate, a pregnancy.

While EC can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, it is most effective the sooner it is taken. However, a woman must currently have a prescription to get EC, many women cannot get EC in time for it to be effective. For this reason, the Campaign for Access to EC has launched an effort to make EC available to women without a prescription through two possible means.

First, we're advocating for FDA approval of EC for sale over-the-counter nationwide. When the FDA's expert panel convened in December 2003, they voted 24-3 to approve Plan B (a brand of EC) for sale over-the-counter. However, the FDA commissioner caved to political pressure and refused to sign off on the recommendation of the expert panel, citing concerns about EC and teen sexual activity. The makers of Plan B, have since re-applied to the FDA with a revised application that stipulates that women 16 and older could get EC over-the-counter, while women 15 and younger would be required to obtain a prescription. .

Secondly, we've proposed state legislation - Illinois House Bill 6577 - that would allow pharmacists to dispense EC to a woman without a prescription. Six other states have already successfully enacted similar legislation.

The Campaign for Access to EC recently launched its push for FDA approval and state legislation at a rally attended by over 150 people, including community members, high school and college students, physicians, religious leaders, and parents. At the rally, organizers distributed the results of a survey of all Champaign County pharmacies. The survey indicated that while many Champaign County pharmacies stock EC, others refuse to fill prescriptions for it.

If you need emergency contraception, call Planned Parenthood at (217) 359-8200 or visit www.ppeci.org. If you are a UIUC student, you can get EC at McKinley Health Center by calling (217) 333-2700 or visiting www.mckinley.uiuc.edu. It is strongly encouraged to get a prescription for EC ahead of time to keep on hand in case of an emergency.

For more information on the Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception, contact Brooke Anderson at (217) 352-6533, ext. 17 or visit the campaign's website at www.healthcareconsumers.org/EC.