Survey of emergency departments shows that 42% of non-Catholic hospitals and 55% of Catholic hospitals would not dispense EC

May 2005

May 4, 2005 (WASHINGTON, DC) – A national survey of hospital emergency rooms shows that staff at 42% of non-Catholic hospitals and 55% of Catholic hospitals said they do not dispense emergency contraception (EC) for any reason, including sexual assault. The study will appear as an early online release today by Annals of Emergency Medicine (Availability of Emergency Contraception: A Survey of Hospital Emergency Department Staff).

The study author, Teresa Harrison, SM, of Ibis Reproductive Health in Cambridge, MA, said, “The findings from this study illustrate the barriers that women face when trying to access emergency contraception from hospital emergency departments, particularly outside of regular business hours.” This is particularly important, she said, because EC may be more effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected intercourse. Emergency contraception can reduce the risk of pregnancy by at least 75%, depending on the regimen used and the timing of treatment.

The hospital surveys, conducted in 2002 and 2003, used a “mystery client” approach; trained female interviewers telephoned on weekends asking about EC availability from emergency department personnel at all 597 Catholic hospitals in the U.S. and at 615 (17%) of all non-Catholic hospitals.

Read full press release.