Media Center: Emergency Contraception

After a lengthy battle and many unnecessary delays, in August 2006, the Food and Drug Administration allowed women aged 18 and older to obtain emergency contraceptive pills directly from a pharmacist. A district court ruling in March 2009 expanded non-prescription access to 17-year-olds.

Emergency contraception is a high dose of the hormones found in regular birth control pills, and can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.  PRCH can provide you with the facts about how emergency contraception works, and why this medication is safe for both adult and adolescent women.

What Our Doctors Are Saying

“Abortion opponents often conflate emergency contraception with abortion, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Medical studies have demonstrated that emergency contraception prevents ovulation and therefore, a potential pregnancy. If a woman is already pregnant when she takes the medication, it will have no effect.”
—PRCH fellow Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, The Washington Post

  • Our guide to emergency contraception helps doctors and other healthcare providers answer patients’ questions about this form of birth control
  • Our ARSHEP program features an educational module that trains doctors about giving emergency contraception to adolescent patients

Media Resources:

Press Release: Women Deserve Health Insurance That Meets Their Basic Medical Needs

Millions of Americans rely on birth control to stay healthy.

New York, NY—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear a challenge from Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft supply chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, a Pennsylvania furniture-making company, to a key component of the Affordable Care Act that enables women to have insurance coverage for preventive care, including contraceptive coverage, without additional cost. These for-profit companies have filed lawsuits alleging that this provision of the ACA violates their religious beliefs and that they should have the right to withhold coverage for contraceptives to which they object.

Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians) Board Chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood issued this statement:

“As physicians, we object to any attempt to place women’s need for affordable birth control at the mercy of the moral or religious inclinations of their employers. Preventive care, including birth control, is basic health care for women—and the decision to use birth control is a conversation between a woman and her medical provider, not a woman and her boss.

“My colleagues and I have spent years advocating for affordable contraception because our patients’ health depends on it. Overwhelming medical evidence demonstrates the connection between birth control and a woman’s health and well-being. Contraception significantly improves a woman’s social, educational, and economic opportunities. Millions of Americans rely on birth control to stay healthy and women deserve health insurance that meets their basic medical needs.”

Physicians and other medical organizations filed a brief in the Supreme Court in support of the government’s petition for certiorari. The brief is available to read/download here. Physicians will be submitting a brief on the merits as well. 

Brief of Amici Curiae Physicians for Reproductive Health, et. al., in Support of Petitioners

Physicians for Reproductive Health and other medical organizations filed a brief in the Supreme Court in support of the government’s petition for certiorari.


Doctors Express Disappointment in 10th Circuit Decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius

All women should benefit from the contraception coverage rule

Physicians for Reproductive Health expressed dismay at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit’s en banc opinion in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. This decision allows the plaintiffs’ case against the contraceptive coverage rule of the Affordable Care Act to continue. Physicians for Reproductive Health had filed an amicus brief* joined by several medical organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women’s Association, and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, as well as leading researchers Dr. Susan Wood and Dr. James Trussell. The brief, available here, describes the mechanism of action of emergency contraception and was cited by Chief Judge Briscoe.

Physicians for Reproductive Health’s Board Chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood stated:

“Although this was not a decision on the merits of the case, we are disappointed that the 10th Circuit has allowed this attack on access to contraceptive coverage to continue. As physicians, we understand the importance of affordable birth control to the well-being of women and their families, and the requirement that employers cover birth control without additional fees was a victory for women’s health and the well-being of families. Women should be able to choose from a wide array of affordable contraception options–without the interference of their employers.

“I have already seen patients benefiting from the contraceptive coverage rule. My patient, whom I will call Rebecca, had struggled to afford her birth control pills last year, and when her finances were tight she stopped her pills and was worried about what to do next. She came to see me this year and when I told her about more effective contraceptive, like intrauterine devices, she wanted one but worried her insurance had a high co-pay for an IUD. I was so pleased to be able to tell her that due to the Affordable Care Act, her insurance now would not  charge her a co-pay for this crucial preventative health care. She got the IUD and has done very well. All women, including employees of Hobby Lobby, should have coverage for contraception, just as Rebecca did.

“We will continue to monitor the litigation in the 10th Circuit as well as in other circuits, and we look forward to the day when all women will benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage rule.”

*Note: Physicians for Reproductive Health has also filed amicus briefs in the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and DC Circuits. 

Doctors Relieved as Administration Drops Opposition to Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception

Medicine and science triumph over politics

Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced that it would drop its attempts to block sales of Plan B One-Step emergency contraception without age restriction, which allow for the medication to be sold on open store shelves, without identification requirements. Removing barriers to this time-sensitive medication will increase access not only for younger women but also for people of all ages without access to government-issued identification.

Dr. Nancy Stanwood, Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians) board chair, issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“We are relieved that the Administration has finally listened to science and medicine and that women of all ages will have access to emergency contraception. For over a decade, Physicians has endorsed an end to the unfounded and harmful age restrictions on this safe and effective medication. Multitudes of studies have demonstrated that emergency contraception is safe for use by teens of all ages and that teens, like adults, can follow the instructions safely. Too many women in the U.S. have gone without this necessary medication because the pharmacy counter is closed, they don’t have government-issued ID, or they’re under 17 and lack a prescription.

Today is a milestone for reproductive health. We look forward to seeing this medication on store shelves as soon as possible.”