NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

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Emergency Contraception

Emergencies happen when it comes to your birth control. That’s why we believe it should be convenient and affordable for Virginia women to obtain emergency contraception (EC) when they need it – whether in a pharmacy, hospital, or doctor’s office. We advocate for policies that educate women about their right to acquire EC, ensure that medical professionals are informed about EC, and protect access at pharmacies and hospitals.

Oral emergency contraception is a backup plan used to prevent unintended pregnancy after unprotected sex or when your primary method of birth control fails. It is commonly known as "the morning-after pill” and goes under brand names like Plan B One-Step™, Next Choice®, and ella®.[1]

  • If you are already pregnant, taking EC will not cause an abortion.
  • EC is more effective at preventing pregnancy the sooner you take it after unprotected sex, but Plan B and its generic brands can be taken up to three days (72 hours) later, while ella® can be taken up to five days (120 hours) later.
  • Plan B One-Step is available over-the-counter in pharmacies without a prescription or age restriction. Generic brands like Next Choice are available over-the-counter only to those ages 17 or older with ID. ella is available only with a prescription from a doctor. You have to pay out-of-pocket for over-the-counter emergency contraception.

The Problem:

EC has great potential to reduce unintended pregnancy, but it's not as widely available as it should be, and many women are not informed about what EC is and how to obtain it. On top of that, anti-choice politicians and groups want to keep it difficult for women to access EC.

  • Virginia hospital emergency rooms are not required to offer EC to rape survivors. Even worse, emergency rooms are not even required to give survivors information about EC.
  • Anti-choice activists consistently spread misinformation, falsehoods, and outright lies about how EC works, including by saying that EC causes abortion. EC does not cause abortion. However, because of anti-choice smear campaigns and tactics, many women are still confused about the difference between EC and the abortion pill, RU 486.

Our Solution:

  • Make sure women know their options and rights in obtaining EC.
  • Require Virginia hospitals to provide information and to offer EC to rape survivors.
  • Encourage physicians to speak with their patients about contraception, including about the range of emergency contraception options.
  • Enable pharmacists to provide oral EC pills over-the-counter to people of all ageswhen they believe it is appropriate.

[1] Copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) like ParaGard® are also highly-effective as emergency contraception when inserted by a medical professional within five days of unprotected intercourse. Learn more about all forms of emergency contraception here from the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

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