Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pennsylvania’s New EC Regulations Leave Advocates with Too Many Questions

On January 25th, the Pennsylvania Department of Health published their Sexual Assault Victim Emergency Services Regulations online in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. According to ye olde Secretary of Health, this means that the regulations are now in effect, but what will that mean for rape victims?

Here’s the rundown: Hospitals that refuse to supply emergency contraception to rape victims due to their “stated religious or moral beliefs” (but we haven’t quite figured out yet where these beliefs must be stated) must notify the Department of Health “within 30 days of the hospital’s decision not to provide emergency contraception.” The hospital must also notify local law enforcement agencies and ambulance and emergency medical care and transport services. It is also required that the hospital notify the victim via oral and written notice of this decision, but what happens when the victim requests EC?

If the victim requests it, the hospital must “arrange for immediate transportation for the victim, at no cost to the victim, to the closest hospital where a victim could obtain emergency contraception.” However, “if the victim’s medical condition does not require further inpatient hospital services, the hospital may arrange to transport the victim to a rural health clinic, Federally-qualified health center, pharmacy or other similar location where a victim could obtain emergency contraception.” And this is where things get especially hairy for the victim…

Although the transportation is to be provided free of charge to the victim, what about EC? Maybe it’s just me, but after being raped, it seems almost inhuman to transport a woman to a pharmacy where she might have to pay as much as $45 out-of-pocket for medication that she should be able to receive at a hospital. Also, what happens if she is a minor? Young women under that age of 18 still need a prescription for EC, and if the hospital refuses to provide EC, can they refuse to provide a prescription for the same drug? Are they then obligated to send her to another medical facility where a doctor can give her the prescription? And the list of concerns goes on and on and on…

While we are actively trying to get answers to these and many other questions, it appears as though rape victims will still have difficulty accessing compassionate, comprehensive healthcare when they are most vulnerable.

Stephanie, Duvall Project

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to go back to the UK policy on anything where the doctor's religious beliefs contradict those of a needed procedure:

The rights of the victim MUST take precedence over the beliefs of the doctor.

It seems to simple, doesn't it? Don't provide emergency services if you don't plan to provide ALL of them. When a person has a choice of treatment, sure, conscientiously object. But in an emergency, and especially a rape, suck it up and do what's best for the patient.

Loving and tolerant religious folk my behind. It's immoral and unspeakably evil to deny a patient emergency care. Period. What kind of god is going to hold helping someone against you?

4:05 PM  

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