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ACOG Lauds Court Decision Regarding Emergency Contraception

April 8, 2009

Washington, DC -- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) lauds the recent ruling by the Federal District Court in New York ordering the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception (EC) available without a prescription to women younger than age 18. This ruling reinforces ACOG's long-held position that there is no scientific or medical reason to impose an age restriction for over-the-counter (OTC) availability of EC because it is safe and effective for adolescents and women of all ages.

EC is a higher dosage of the same hormones found in ordinary birth control pills. It is highly effective in reducing the chance of pregnancy after either a contraceptive failure or unprotected sex, including rape. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, EC prevents up to 89% of pregnancies. It is most effective if taken within 24 hours.

There are more than 800,000 teen pregnancies in the US each year, many ending in abortion. Statistics show that the majority of adolescents have sex for the first time around age 17. By the time teenagers reach age 19, 70 percent have had sexual intercourse. In light of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing a worrisome increase in births to teens in the US, easy access to EC is all the more imperative. According to the CDC, the 2007 birth rate for teens ages 15 to 17 years increased by one percent. This rate rose four percent between 2005 and 2007, halting what had been a 45 percent decline between 1991 and 2005.

Although EC is not a silver bullet, unencumbered access is critical to help adolescents prevent unintended pregnancies and subsequent abortions. In keeping with the FDA's stated mission to promote public health and welfare, ACOG urges it to withdraw both the age restriction and the behind-the-counter status for OTC emergency contraception.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the national medical organization representing over 53,000 members who provide health care for women.