September 24, 2014 — Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday introduced a bill (S 2876) that would require all hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds to provide sexual assault survivors with accurate information about emergency contraception and offer them timely access to the drugs, regardless of their ability to pay, Time reports (Alter, Time, 9/23).
According to Murray, almost 30,000 women become pregnant annually as the result of incest or rape. She added that the bill is needed because some states have imposed restrictions on EC (Cox, "Floor Action," The Hill, 9/23). Murray also framed the bill as a response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.
Murray introduced the bill with co-sponsors Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (Time, 9/23).
In addition to the hospital requirements, the measure would direct the HHS secretary to develop and distribute information on EC to pharmacists, other health care providers and the public. According to "Floor Action," six states allow pharmacists to refuse to provide EC.
Murray said in a statement, "Emergency contraception is a safe, responsible and effective means of preventing unintended pregnancies -- a goal we all should share. Unfortunately, in spite of its increased availability, emergency contraception remains an underused prevention method in the United States, especially for survivors of sexual assault."
Warren called the bill "a significant step that will give doctors the tools they need to provide women with more information and critical care" ("Floor Action, The Hill, 9/23).
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said, "It is unacceptable that a survivor of rape or incest can be denied access to emergency contraception in the emergency room, and therefore forced to carry a pregnancy caused by her attacker," adding, "Decisions about emergency contraception, like all forms of birth control, should be between a woman and her doctor, not her pharmacist, her boss, or her Congressman" (Time, 9/23).