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Doctors Tell Women to Take Emergency Contraception Sooner Rather Than Later

A new advertising campaign in the U.S. tells women to get a prescription for emergency contraception before they need it. VOA's Carol Pearson has more, in this report produced by Pat Harris.

The morning after pill, also called Plan B, is a high-dose of regular birth control medication, and is normally taken after a woman has unprotected sex.

The pill can reduce a woman's chances of getting pregnant by up to 89 percent if she takes it within 72 hours of having sexual intercourse.

A new campaign started by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises women to get a prescription for Plan B well in advance of when it might be needed. Doctors say Plan B is even more effective when taken before sex.

Dr. Susan Wood is the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Women's Health. "When women need emergency contraception, they need it now. They don't need it tomorrow or three days from now."

This is a form of contraception. There is another pill, RU-486, that terminates pregnancy. Political conservatives oppose both.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, says the campaign for the morning after pill is inappropriate. "It's very 'in your face' and it's meant to be a political statement."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wants the morning after pill to be available over the counter and not by prescription only.

Nine states currently allow the pill to be sold over the counter (without a prescription) , but Wendy Wright cautions, “In any circumstances in which a woman would be using this drug, she needs to have medical oversight, especially in case of rape."

A scientific advisory committee told the Food and Drug Administration the morning-after pill is safe enough to be sold over the counter, yet the agency refused to make it available without a prescription because of concern that young teens would be using the pill without a physician's supervision.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says easier access to this pill could help prevent half the three million unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. each year.