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Politicization of Emergency Contraception: A Case Study in Public Harm

Dangers of Compromised Scientific Integrity of EC Decision Presented at AAAS Meeting

For Immediate Release
February 20,  2005

Contact: Ann McCall
Phone: (202) 466-3825

Washington, DC –Today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, Dr. Felicia Stewart, MD, will use the current debate over emergency contraception (EC) and the delay of FDA approval in her presentation as part of a panel discussion entitled The Prognosis for Science in the Next Four Years: Strategies for Preventing the Misuse of Science. All eight panelists will report on ways that the misuse of science has interfered with sound public policy-making decisions.

In her presentation, Stewart will discuss the history of EC and the on-going political struggle to obtain FDA approval for over-the-counter access. She also lists the top five public health harms from compromised scientific integrity in the case of EC:

  • Delay in improving access to EC involves significant health risks. Unprotected intercourse is common and so is unintended pregnancy.
  • Teens and sexual assault victims are especially high risk groups.
  • Research investment is stymied if policy decisions are based on ideology.
  • Policy decisions based on ideology rather than science mislead the public.
  • Self censorship compromises thinking, the quality of science, and jeopardizes health outcomes for men and women.

“Every day, 10 million couples in the United States potentially at risk for unintended pregnancy have intercourse. Among them, 700,000 are not protected against pregnancy at all, and 27,000 have a condom break or slip. EC use could reduce the risk for at least these 727,000. Making sure that EC pills are available and provided to women after sexual assault could also prevent as many as 22,000 pregnancies that occur after rape each year in the U.S. Allowing ideology to trump science—impeding access to emergency contraceptive pills—is a serious health hazard for women,” says Stewart.

Dr. Stewart is co-director of the Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy at the University of California, San Francisco and is chair of the Association of Reproductive Health Professional’s (ARHP) policy committee.


The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) is the leading source for trusted medical education and information on reproductive and sexual health. ARHP educates health care providers, informs consumers, and helps shape public policy. ARHP is a non-profit membership association composed of highly qualified and committed experts in reproductive health. ARHP members are health professionals in clinical practice, education, research, and advocacy and they include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, researchers, educators, pharmacists, and other professionals in reproductive health. To learn more, visit: