Finally, there's a bit of good news about reproductive rights. As a result of emergency contraception being sold over-the-counter, between 2006 and 2008 about twice as many women used the pills, compared to six years earlier when it required a prescription.
A new study of 6,300 sexually active American women found that nearly 10% have used the morning after pill, up from 4% in 2002. Megan L. Kavanaugh, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute who worked on the study, said, "It has more than doubled since the last time the data were collected," adding, "its use still seems relatively low, given that it's easy to access. So there's room for improvement."
Guttmacher attributes the rise in use to more media attention, but they found there's been no change in how often doctors are discussing emergency contraception. In both surveys only 3% of women said they talked about the pills with their doctors, and previous research found that health providers don't usually bring it up. Of course the 2006 law made it so women over 17 don't have to talk to their doctors to obtain emergency contraception, but Guttmacher says it should be part of talks women have with their doctors about how to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
While there have been some huge improvements in access to the morning after pill since it became available in the U.S. in 1999, it hasn't had as big an effect as some expected. It was hoped that the medication would lower the rate of unwanted pregnancies, but Kavanaugh says, "so far there's no evidence that this is happening." Slowly more women are starting to use emergency contraception, but many still don't know what it does, or that it's easy to obtain.