Planned Parenthood to distribute free emergency contraception

Greg SchreierAspen Correspondent

All 25 Planned Parenthood offices in Colorado are giving out free packages of Plan B emergency contraception on Friday in response to a Gov. Bill Owens veto.That includes the office in Glenwood Springs. Terri Worm, who manages that office, said Friday’s event is in response to politicians controlling access to emergency contraception.”Access to emergency contraception shouldn’t be about politics,” Worm said. “It’s just really unfortunate it’s come down to that.” That access is especially important in the Roaring Fork Valley, Worm said, where health care access can be limited.”I think unique to us in the valley is just how far women have to travel for their health care,” Worm said. The Glenwood Springs office gets women coming from Aspen, Grand Junction, Vail and around Summit County. The closest offices to Glenwood Springs are in Steamboat and Durango, Worm said.House Bill 1212, sponsored by Lakewood Democrat Betty Boyd, would have allowed pharmacists to issue a prescription for the pill – something typically reserved for a doctor. But Owens vetoed the bill in April, saying it would be too easy for minors to get the prescription without the guidance of a doctor and that it didn’t protect pharmacists who didn’t want to prescribe the contraceptive.Emergency contraception also would have become the only prescription drug that did not require a doctor’s prescription.”I believe this strays radically from the accepted norms of medicine and is not in the best interests of Coloradans,” Owens said in a prepared statement after the veto.Although the veto did not do anything to limit the existing availability of the Plan B pill, Kate Horle, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said it still harms women seeking it.”What it did is prevent broader access,” she said.Planned Parenthood estimates it will give away about 1,500 Plan B packages on Friday.Women in rural areas could have trouble accessing a doctor, Horle said. A woman sexually assaulted or who had unprotected sex on a Friday night has to wait until Monday to get a doctor’s prescription.The contraceptive uses a high dosage of hormones found in typical birth control pills. The drug is supposed to prevent a fertilized egg from lodging in the uterus. Experts say it can be taken within five days of unprotected sex, but it’s most effective if taken within 12 hours.It is not the same as the abortion drug RU-486, which induces an abortion in pregnant women.Eight states have legislation allowing pharmacists to prescribe and dispense Plan B. One of those states is Washington, where Horle said there has been a 30 percent reduction in abortions since that legislation was passed.Planned Parenthood says the pill is safe and has a rare side effect of nausea. But opponents disagree, saying there are other side effects Planned Parenthood isn’t telling people about.When the FDA decided against making Plan B available without a prescription, it wrote that proponents “did not demonstrate that Plan B could be used safely by young adolescent women for emergency contraception without the professional supervision of a licensed practitioner.”Phillip Hendrix, the spokesman for pro-life organization Colorado Right to Life, said there are studies that suggest nausea, abdominal pain, headaches and heavy menstrual bleeding are side effects that can occur in more than 10 percent of patients.”They’re simply not telling them the truth about this product,” Hendrix said.He also denounced Planned Parenthood’s giveaway as little more than a marketing ploy.”It’s a propaganda ploy on the part of Planned Parenthood,” Hendrix said. “They’re trying to mass-market their product to as many people as possible.”But Horle said the free contraceptives are just part of the clinic’s mission.”We’re all about making sure women have access to health care,” she said.The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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