As an advocate, you can play an important role in educating the public through the media about emergency birth control. Use these talking points to guide you.
- Emergency birth control pills are also called emergency contraception, morning after pills, or Plan B®. They are a method to use after unprotected sex, sexual assault, or when a contraceptive method fails in order to prevent pregnancy.
- Emergency birth control pills work. Emergency birth control pills can lower a woman’s chances of getting pregnant by about 89% depending on how quickly she takes them, when during her cycle she had sex, and the kind of emergency birth control pills she takes.
- Emergency birth control pills are safe. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), American Academy of Pediatrics, Society for Adolescent Medicine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association, American Medical Women’s Association, and the World Health Organization all support access to emergency birth control pills for women because emergency birth control pills work well and are safe. In August 2006 the FDA announced that Plan B® would be available without a prescription to women ages 18 and over. Women under 18 will still need a prescription to obtain the pills.
- Emergency birth control pills should be taken within 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex. Emergency birth control pills work best if taken within the first 24 hours, but still work well if taken within three days. They may still work if taken up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex.
- Emergency birth control pills do not cause abortion. Emergency birth control pills work like regular birth control pills: they delay ovulation and may prevent the egg from being fertilized. It is possible, though unproven, that emergency birth control pills may also keep the egg from implanting (that is, stop it from attaching to a woman’s uterus). But this would not end a pregnancy. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, and almost all professional medical groups define pregnancy as beginning when the egg has finished implanting.
- Emergency birth control pills will not harm an already existing pregnancy. Over 40 years experience with birth control pills has provided a large amount of evidence that they will not end a pregnancy and will not cause birth defects. Since emergency birth control pills are the same medicine as birth control pills, this evidence applies to them also.
- Women do not use emergency birth control pills to replace regular birth control. Most women who ask for emergency birth control pills have never been pregnant and regularly use other forms of birth control. Women who obtain emergency birth control pills in advance of need do not give up their regular birth control method. Women understand that emergency birth control pills are for emergencies.
- Young women who have been sexually assaulted especially need emergency birth control pills. Up to 20 percent of women have been raped while in their teenage years. They were unable to prevent the rape; but they can prevent pregnancy after the assault by using emergency birth control pills. In South Carolina, emergency rooms are required by law to provide emergency birth control to sexual assault survivors who ask for it.
- Many young women face barriers to getting birth control barriers that can include fear of pelvic exams, cost, limited clinic hours, long waiting times for appointments, and trouble getting to a health care provider. Many may also fear their privacy will be violated.
- Becoming a teen parent creates great challenges for the young person and her child. Women who might get pregnant have the right to use a medicine to prevent pregnancy. Since emergency birth control pills work well and are safe, they should be available to all women, including young women ages 16-24.