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FDA Decision Increases Catholic Women’s Risk of Unintended Pregnancy

May 12, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC—“We are alarmed by the FDA’s willingness to put women, especially Catholic women, at increased risk of unintended pregnancy,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), at a joint press conference today. CFFC joined prochoice members of Congress and other organizations concerned about women’s health to decry the FDA’s refusal to make emergency contraception, a high dose of birth control pills that prevents pregnancy, available over the counter.

“Catholic women and women who rely upon Catholic health care systems for their primary and emergency care needs are disproportionately harmed by the FDA’s refusal to make emergency contraception available over the counter,” added Kissling.

“Reproductive health care services that most Americans consider basic and essential – including emergency contraception – are significantly restricted by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, guidelines issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Catholic health care facilities. This means patients, whether they are Catholic or not, usually cannot learn about or access their options through these facilities. In some areas, the Catholic hospital is the only local provider.”

According to CFFC’s survey, “Second Chance Denied: Emergency Contraception in Catholic Hospital Emergency Rooms” (December 2002):

  • Only 5% of Catholic hospital emergency rooms provide emergency contraception (EC)
    upon request, so a woman is typically unable to receive EC unless she has been raped.
  • Only 23% of Catholic emergency rooms will provide women who have been raped with emergency contraception.
  • Fifty-five percent of the Catholic hospital emergency rooms surveyed reported that they don’t dispense emergency contraception under any circumstances. Half of these hospitals will not provide a referral for women seeking EC.

—Statement ends—