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Really, the ONLY reason the MAP -- which is just as safe as, if not safer than, typical oral contraceptive pills -- is not currently over-the-counter is because of the ideology of those opposed to birth control in general -- or those who don't understand contraceptive technology and opt to remain uninformed to better serve their own personal agendas -- not due to health concerns.
While it may seem easy enough to obtain it by getting a prescription, bear in mind that the sooner the MAP is taken, the greater chance it has of being effective, and after 120 hours, it has no chance of working at all. So, for many, the timing alone could be tricky: if a condom breaks on a Friday night, a woman may not be able to take the MAP until Monday afternoon, a wait which vastly decreases the possible effectiveness of the MAP. And women with the least agency -- rape victims, teens and younger women, low-income women, women without health insurance, those living in rural areas -- who in many ways need things like EC more than many, are the least able to obtain it when it is not available over-the counter.
Even having women have to ask for EC is iffy enough: let's remember that the only male-directed birth control method (save vasectomy or abstinence), condoms, are almost always right in the aisles. Moreover, all too often still, many doctors and pharmcists are still refusing to prescribe or fill prescriptions for emergency contraception for women, even though it is both legal and safe.
According to the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, about three million unintended pregnancies occur each year in the U.S, as many as half to women who are already using regular methods of contraception. For many of these women, emergency contraception is a reliable method of back-up birth control. To be most effective, emergency contraception should be taken within 24 hours (and up to 72 hours) of unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure. Women who most need quick access to emergency contraception are the 300,000 who are raped each year; this would help preclude the approximate 32,000 pregnancies that result each year from rape.
In Alaska, California, New Mexico and Washington, women can obtain EC directly through trained pharmacists. About 38 countries make emergency contraception available without prescription.
It is apparent that extremist opponents of birth control are unduly influencing decision-makers to restrict access to this safe and effective contraceptive. News reports indicate that under pressure from such groups as the right-wing Concerned Women for America and others, the FDA has been reviewing a "modified approval" that would prohibit teen-agers from buying emergency contraception without a prescription. In addition, EC would have to be kept behind the counter so that women would have to ask the pharmacist to give it to them. This is an insulting and demeaning approach that would allow some pharmacists to question or humiliate women who need to buy emergency contraception. (Nat'l Organization for Women)
Remember that concerns about birth control and unplanned pregnancies aren't just concerns about overpopulation or the well-being of children: women's ability to decide freely and autonomously whether or not to become pregnant and bear children is an essential part of women's basic liberty and rights. Even for those of us who may never have need for EC (or birth control for that matter), it's availability -- or lack thereof -- makes a big dent in our agency and equal rights as women.
So, hit this link and send the FDA a note TODAY: this decision is being made Thursday, and your support for increased availibility of EC is vital for the well being of all women, even those who will never need or use EC.