Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Should Health Care Workers Be Required to Offer Emergency Contraceptives (aka Plan B or the “Morning After Pill”) to Victims of Sexual Assault?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC), a US Department of Health and Human Services project, published on its NWHIC website, an Aug. 2006 “Frequently Asked Questions” document that described emergency contraception:

“Emergency contraception… works by stopping an egg from being released from the ovary and by stopping an egg from being fertilized, or reached by sperm. Emergency contraception also stops a fertilized egg from attaching, or implanting, itself to the wall of the uterus (or womb).

The so-called ‘abortion pills’ (Mifeprex (mifepristone) also called RU-486) work after a woman becomes pregnant – after a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. These pills cause the uterus to expel the egg, ending the pregnancy.”

Aug. 2006

The Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproduction research organization, wrote the following information in its June 10, 2010 “State Policies in Brief, Emergency Contraception,” published on the organization’s website:

“Since the late 1990s, state legislatures have taken different paths to expand access to emergency contraception. First, some states have mandated emergency contraception-related services for women who have been sexually assaulted. Second, some states permitted a woman to obtain the medication without having to obtain a physician’s prescription; with the FDA’s decision, these measures will now apply only to minors. Third, one state has limited pharmacists’ ability to refuse to dispense emergency contraception on moral or ethical grounds. Finally, in some states, regulations discourage pharmacists from refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, with one state having gone so far as to require pharmacies that stock contraceptives to dispense all contraceptive methods. At the same time, other states have attempted to restrict access by excluding emergency contraception from state Medicaid family planning eligibility expansions or contraceptive coverage mandates, or by allowing pharmacists and potentially some pharmacies, to refuse to provide contraceptive services.”

June 10, 2010

PRO (yes)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a Mar. 21, 2002 press release titled “ACLU Strongly Supports Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault Victims; Calls It Crucial Component of Effective Health Care for Women,” available on its website, wrote:

“The American Civil Liberties Union today… [supports] legislation that would require hospitals that receive federal funds to provide emergency contraception to survivors of sexual assault, care that the ACLU said is essential to protect against unwanted pregnancies and to ensure reproductive freedom for rape survivors…

Emergency contraception, also known as post-coital contraception or – somewhat misleadingly – the ‘morning after’ pill, has been proven highly effective in preventing unintended pregnancy when taken no more than 72 hours after unprotected intercourse…

[P]assage of this bill is so crucial because, currently, survivors of sexual assault who are not offered emergency contraception during their initial treatment at the hospital must either obtain it directly from an outside doctor or obtain a prescription and then find a pharmacy – a process that can often take more than 72 hours.”

Mar. 21, 2002


NARAL Pro-Choice America, a nonprofit “pro-choice” organization, wrote the following information in its Jan. 1, 2010 article “Emergency Contraception (EC): An Important and Underutilized Contraceptive Option,” published on its NARAL website:

“Providing EC to sexual-assault survivors is an important means to help alleviate some of the trauma associated with sexual assault by restoring a sense of control and offering a safeguard to avoid the additional trauma of unintended pregnancy. Hospitals can play an important role in ensuring that information about and access to EC is distributed consistently; however, unfortunately, many emergency rooms fail to offer this important medication…

Emergency contraception is an important but underutilized contraceptive option that has the potential to improve women’s reproductive health significantly… Instead of blocking access to EC, policymakers should focus on public education, education for health-care professionals, and innovative programs to make EC more accessible to all women.”

Jan. 1, 2010


The Secular Coalition for America wrote the following information in its Sep. 14, 2009 article “Religious Refusal Laws Affecting Emergency Contraception Access,” published on its website:

“Pharmacists around the country are allowed to deny rape victims emergency contraception if doing so violates their religious beliefs. The trauma of rape should not be compounded by denying access to emergency contraception, but there are no federal laws that address whether or not a pharmacist may refuse to fill a prescription…

Each year, approximately 25,000 women in the United States become pregnant as a result of sexual assault… Timely access to emergency contraception could help many of these rape survivors avoid the additional trauma of facing an unintended pregnancy.”

Sep. 14, 2009


Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor and Legal Correspondent at Slate, wrote the following position in her Apr. 13, 2005 article “Martyrs and Pestles: Should Pharmacists Be Allowed to Refuse to Dispense Birth Control?,” published by Slate:

“The law cannot always be called on to immunize us from our decisions to take the law into our own hands… If you don’t believe an FDA-approved drug should be legal, work at the Dairy Queen. But if a pharmacist doesn’t have to dispense birth control, or an EMT can refuse to drive someone to an abortion clinic, or a nurse can refuse a rape victim emergency contraception, none of us can really trust in the professionals around us at those moments when we need them the most.”

Apr. 13, 2005

CON (no)


Concerned Women for America, a Christian public policy organization, wrote the following position in its Mar. 16, 2006 article “No ‘Morning-After Pill’ for Rapists,” published on its website,

“No one disputes that rape and incest are serious crimes, and those convicted should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Furthermore, victims deserve the support and assistance of the public in recovering.

The truth is that rape rarely results in pregnancy. But even if it does, the law should not permit the most innocent victim, an unborn child, to suffer by forfeiting his or her life because of the rapist’s criminal act.

Rape is not a capital offense for which the death penalty applies. Homicide laws make no exception for a rape victim seeking recovery who kills her rapist by giving him an arsenic tablet the morning after.

Since the law does not permit a victim to aid her recovery by killing her rapist, why should the law permit her to kill the innocent unborn child? If aborting the child will aid in the woman’s recovery, why not permit her to kill the child at any age?”

Mar. 16, 2006


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an association of Catholic leaders, released the following position in its “Fact Sheet: Emergency Contraception and Treatment of Victims of Sexual Assault,” published on its website (accessed June 17, 2010):

“The law should not require hospitals to administer so-called ’emergency contraception’ when those drugs will end the life of a newly conceived human embryo. Hospitals can offer rape victims treatments that are truly contraceptive and address their other needs with compassion and respect.”

June 17, 2010


Pharmacists for Life International (PFLI), an association of “pro-life” pharmacists, wrote the following information in an article titled “Why a Conscience Clause Is a Must… NOW!,” published on its website, (accessed June 17, 2010):

“The pharmacist who declines to dispense drugs or counseling which he knows to violate his conscience, properly understood, is resisting an objective evil and, in fact, is doing his client a favor. On the contrary, those who wish to mandate dispensing of drugs under any and all conditions or whims are really… imposing a false, relativistic, secular and humanistic morality on the pharmacist who understands that he cannot cooperate in something objectively wrong or evil. Pharmacists are under no obligation, even if written in the positive law, to violate the Divine Law.”

June 17, 2010


Kristen Waggoner, JD, Partner Attorney of Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC., was quoted as having said the following in the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) article “Health Care Providers Should Not Be Forced to Distribute Abortion-Inducing Drugs in Washington State,” published on July 27, 2007 on ADF’s website:

“The government cannot force pro-life or any other health care providers to violate their conscience simply to appease a political agenda… The morning-after pill is widely accessible… The handful of health care providers who have a strong moral objection to participating in taking innocent human life should be allowed to refer customers to someone who does not have a moral objection to stocking or dispensing the drug.”

July 27, 2007