It’s “Back Up Your Birth Control” Day of Action 2012! Are you in the know?

Today is the annual Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action, sponsored by our friends at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, encouraging people to get the facts about emergency contraception, dispel anti-choice misinformation about EC, and make sure they know how to “back up their birth control”!

Emergency contraception (also known as the “morning-after pill,” or by brand names like Plan B, Next Choice, or ella), is a hormonal birth control medication designed to be taken up to 3-5 days after unprotected sex. EC works to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation or fertilization, and will not have an effect once a woman is already pregnant. It is meant to be used as a back up in emergency situations (such as when a condom breaks, a birth control pill is missed, or a person is forced to have unprotected sex), not as a replacement for a primary birth control method. Most brands of emergency contraception can be legally obtained at pharmacies without a prescription by people 17 and older (yes, all people — men can buy it for a woman as well!).

EC is an incredibly important tool in our fight to reduce unintended pregnancies and give women better control over their reproductive health and lives, and it’s critical that we make sure it’s available to all women who need it.  Anti-choice groups and politicians, however, don’t like emergency contraception any more than they do regular birth control, and they repeatedly push back at attempts to make EC more readily available. In fact, they often spread misinformation about emergency contraception and conflate it with medical abortion, which it is not. They continually use politics to halt medical and public health progress on the issue.

Emergency contraception is a relatively new option, and due to lack of information and the active misinformation by anti-choicers, many women unfortunately don’t understand EC or their rights in obtaining it. Even more troubling, it’s become clear that many medical professionals don’t understand it either!

In 2010, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation undertook a project to investigate emergency contraception access at Virginia pharmacies, and our results were troubling. Not only did we find that many pharmacies did not have EC in stock, we found that many pharmacists and staff members actively gave inaccurate information to callers about how EC works and who can legally obtain it.

We haven’t been alone in these findings. A recently published study by the researchers at the Boston Medical Center found that as many as 1 in 5 pharmacies was inaccurately telling 17-year olds that they could not legally obtain EC without a prescription. They also had similar results to our findings that pharmacy staff who said they did not have EC in stock were not helpful in giving the caller suggestions of how they might obtain it.

This is a serious problem for women’s health and rights. So what can you do to help? Know the facts about how emergency contraception works, know your rights, and spread the word!

Tell your Senator: Protect Virginia’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative!

The Virginia General Assembly is back in Richmond this week for a special session to resume work on the budget, and there was some tentative good news today as the Senate Finance Committee advanced their version of the state’s two-year budget — but your legislators need to hear from you now to make sure it becomes a reality!

As you may remember, Governor Bob McDonnell’s version of the budget, introduced in January, proposed eliminating all state funding for Virginia’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative programs. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, or TPPI, funds programs in seven health districts throughout the state with high rates of pregnancy among teenagers, including Alexandria, Petersburg, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke, and the Eastern Shore. These programs provide sex education, information and resources on health and wellness, and access to contraception for thousands of Virginia young people.

The governor’s proposed budget eliminated all $455,000 in remaining state funding for TPPI programs, after the program’s funding was already slashed in his first two years in office.

Due to our advocacy and pressure by pro-choice legislators in the General Assembly, however, the version of the budget advanced by the Senate Finance Committee today does include restored funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative! If this ends up in the final budget approved by the Governor, it would be great news for the thousands of teens throughout Virginia who are served by this program and receive the knowledge and resources they need to protect their health and prevent unintended pregnancy.

The full Virginia Senate is expected to vote on their version of the budget plan this coming Monday, March 26th. Please contact your Senator today and let them know that preserving strong funding in the budget for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative programs is important to you!

You can find your state Senator and their contact information here.   Email or call their office today and urge them to support funding for teen pregnancy prevention initiatives in the budget plan!

(Once you’ve done that, please share this post and urge your friends and neighbors to do the same!)

The Unintended Consequences of the Hyde Amendment

By Brooke

A new article from Jezebel entitled “Shockingly, Free And More Effective Birth Control Leads To Fewer Abortions,” highlights a study that points out an unexpected and unfortunate consequence of the Hyde Amendment.

Because of the Hyde Amendment, Medicaid can provide absolutely no funds to a woman seeking an abortion. According to Dr. Paula Bednarek in an interview with Reuters Health, the Hyde Amendment also blocks qualifying women from receiving any kind of contraceptive – including one of the most effective contraceptives, an IUD – on the same day and in the same place they received their abortion.

While supporters of the Hyde Amendment may claim it is simple enough to just return to an abortion provider a few days later, another study found that after six months, “more than 90 percent of the women who had immediately gotten their IUD were still using it, versus about three quarters who received a delayed insertion.”

Reuters Health reports that women who are given free IUDs immediately after abortions had drastically reduced rates of repeat abortions in the two years following their first procedure. Their chances of ending up at an abortion provider in the next 24 months went down by 64 percent, in large part thanks to the immediate availability of an IUD.

According to Sam Sonfield of the Guttmacher Institute, IUDs and other similar devices “can go a long way to reducing unintended pregnancies, and as a consequence, abortions.”

It is not only safe for a woman to get an IUD immediately after an abortion or miscarriage, Jezebel reports that such a practice could prevent over 70,000 unintended pregnancies per year.

The Hyde Amendment not only impedes access to abortion for women, it also may have an unexpected effect on the rates of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Choice News Updates

Here are a couple of choice stories from last week!

Liberty University’s Health Care Lawsuit Is Dismissed

Last Tuesday a federal judge dismissed Liberty University’s lawsuit against the government over the new health care law. The university claimed that the law violated its religious rights because some of the money collected for insurance could be used for abortion, which the Christian school opposes.

This, however, is untrue. In fact, while the health care debate was occurring earlier this year, the White house issued an executive order clearly stating no federal funds would be used for elective abortion services under the health care legislation. Judge Norman K. Moon reminded Liberty University of this fact.

Liberty University’s claim of an “abortion mandate” has been a favorite tactic of anti-choice groups and opponents of health care reform. Judge Moon wrote in his decision that the law “contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used for abortion services beyond those in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered.”

Anti-choice organizations and leaders have often muddied the waters by making misleading claims that the health care bill mandates abortion coverage. We will continue to educate the public, in the hope that truth will trump misinformation.

Trust Women, Respect Choice Plates Now Available!

They're Here!

In a recent blog post, we updated you on the status of Virginia’s Trust Women, Respect Choice license plates. At that time, the more than 350 people who pre-ordered the plates were beginning to receive them in the mail. Well, the plates are now officially available for general purchase through the DMV!

If you’ll recall, earlier this year the plate had to go through several hurdles. First, Delegate Gilbert attempted to divert funds raised from the plate to the Pregnant Woman Support Fund, an empty and unused government fund. Fortunately, his amendment was defeated. Then, Governor McDonnell continued to show his anti-choice colors by amending the bill to make sure no proceeds from the plate would go to abortion services even though Planned Parenthood had already made that fact clear. With the hard work of our dedicated activists and supporters (and the threat of a discrimination lawsuit), the license plate bill passed!

Because it is a revenue-sharing plate, after 1000 are sold, $15 of every $25 plate fee will go to the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and be used to provide essential, preventative women’s health services such as contraception, pap smears, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. That means, the more we have on the roads the more we help low-income women access family planning care through Planned Parenthood.

So, show off the fact that Virginia really is Pro-Choice! Order yours today!

[Thanks to our intern Emily for her work on this post.]