Assembly Passes Emergency Contraception Bill

Lifton urges Governor’s support for revised measure
March 2, 2006

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D/WFP-Tompkins/Cortland), Chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on Women’s Issues, announced the Assembly passed legislation she sponsored to improve women’s health care by allowing pharmacists and registered nurses to dispense emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill, without a prescription (A.9906).

“Last year, the Assembly and Senate worked together in a bi-partisan fashion to pass this vital legislation,” Lifton said. “Unfortunately, the governor vetoed it – leaving thousands without a timely and safe recourse to prevent an unintended pregnancy.”

To address the governor’s concerns, the bill was revised to:

  • provide EC for one course of treatment at a time;
  • mandate that the patient know the risks of unprotected sex and resources for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence; and
  • be dispensed to women only.

In addition, the bill addresses concerns that the morning-after pill would be too readily available as an over-the-counter drug. Emergency contraception will be dispensed behind the counter by a pharmacist, or by a registered nurse. This control will help prevent overuse of the medication.

The FDA approved the morning-after pill in 1997. The pill is a higher dosage of standard birth control pills and must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy – although it is most effective if taken within the first 24 hours. EC can reduce the risk of pregnancy up to 89 percent when used correctly.

EC is often confused with RU-486 – the so-called abortion pill – but works in a completely different manner. EC prevents conception; it will not end an established pregnancy, as does RU-486.

“Unfortunately rape and incest cases do occur that could result in unwanted pregnancies, and of course sometimes birth control simply fails,” Lifton said. “When this happens, women should be able to access Emergency Contraception as soon as possible without having to wait for an appointment with their doctor – a wait that may cause Emergency Contraception to no longer be an option.”

In New York State, 123,048 abortions were performed in 2002 and almost 9,400 were performed on girls ages 17 and under, according to New York State Department of Health statistics. Medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, estimate that emergency contraception will reduce the number of abortions in New York State by half. EC use will also reduce the state’s medical costs by nearly $262 million, according to the state Comptroller’s office.

“The Assembly has worked to ensure the governor’s objections are addressed in this new version of the bill,” Lifton said. “I urge the governor and state Senate to do their part to help deliver this vital health care option to the women of New York.”