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Emergency Contraception: An Issue Before The Missouri Legislature?

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December 29, 2010

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Missouri lawmakers start a new session on Thursday, Jan. 6, and one of the issues expected to soon be up for discussion is emergency contraception, such as the controversial 'ella,' a pill that just became available this month in the United States.

Currently, Missouri doctors are not required to inform victims of sexual assault about options for emergency contraception, but that would change under a proposed law, known as Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE). The Reverend Kimberly Banks-Brown is advocacy director for Faith Aloud, a group that supports the CARE legislation.

"What we have to do is educate people, give them the information, make it accessible – and then trust that they will make the best decisions for them."

A CARE bill didn't make it to a vote in last year's legislative session. Opponents of a CARE law, and emergency contraception in general, believe it promotes abortion. The pill manufacturers have countered by explaining that emergency contraception prevents pregnancy from occurring, if taken within a few days of unprotected sex. The U.S. Catholic Health Association also has indicated that Catholic hospitals can administer emergency contraception, because it does not disrupt an existing pregnancy.

Banks-Brown believes emergency contraception should be part of the conversation between women and their doctors.

"It's almost like you've got to be in the 'in crowd' to know anything about it; and then, when you do know something about it, unfortunately, there's so much stigma attached to it because of the lack of education. Women still don't have the comfort level they need to go out and get it or ask about it."

Some hospitals and pharmacies have refused to dispense emergency contraception medications, citing moral grounds.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO