Accessibility of Emergency Contraception in California's Catholic Hospitals
Women's Health Issues 2005 July-August; 15(4): 174-178
BACKGROUND: Access to emergency contraception (EC) is an important option for women wanting to prevent an unintended pregnancy. In California, emergency rooms (ERs) are required to provide survivors of sexual assault with information about and access to EC. This study assessed the likelihood that a woman calling a Catholic hospital in California to inquire about EC could access the medication. METHODS: During September 2003, we contacted an ER staff member in each of California's Catholic hospitals (n = 45) using a mystery caller approach. Following a written script, trained female researchers asked ER staff whether they dispense EC at their facility and under what circumstances. If respondents initially stated that their facility would not dispense EC, the caller asked whether EC was available to women who had been raped. If staff confirmed that their facility would not provide EC under any circumstances including rape, callers requested a referral to another facility that would provide the medication. RESULTS: Sixty- six percent of staff contacted stated that their hospital would not provide EC under any circumstances, including rape. Of those that would not dispense EC, fewer than half of respondents (48%) provided a referral. Of the 14 referrals given, only about one third (n = 5) led to a facility that provides EC. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that access to EC in California's Catholic hospitals is minimal, even for victims of sexual assault. As many as two-thirds of these hospitals may be violating state legislation requiring hospitals to provide EC to sexual assault survivors upon request.
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