Common Sense Legislation to Help Rape Survivors

Each year, approximately 25,000 women in the United States become pregnant as a result of rape.  Many of these pregnancies could be prevented if sexual assault survivors had timely access to emergency contraception (EC) –- a concentrated dose of ordinary birth control pills that can dramatically reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant if taken soon after sex.

We are proud to work with congressional leaders to address this and other important women’s health issues.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) recently reintroduced the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act –- a bill to make sure EC is available to sexual assault survivors in every hospital emergency room.  The concept behind the Clinton-Rothman-Biggert bill enjoys strong support both nationwide and in the halls of Congress -– from Republicans and Democrats, pro-choice and pro-life members alike.

The public finds it hard to fathom that many hospitals fail to help sexual assault survivors avoid the additional trauma of an unplanned pregnancy.  Polls show that nearly 80 percent of American women want hospitals –- religious-affiliated or not –- to offer EC to rape survivors.  But unfortunately, a 2005 nationwide survey found that 42 percent of non-Catholic hospitals and 55 percent of Catholic hospitals do not provide EC under any circumstance –- including when a woman has been sexually assaulted.

To date, ten states have laws on the books to improve access to EC for rape survivors.  And as I write this, legislators in two more states –- Minnesota and Connecticut –- are sending state CARE bills to their governors’ desks to be signed into law.

Last November, voters spoke out loud and clear: they are tired of the divisive, political attacks that marred previous Congresses, and they want lawmakers to seek out thoughtful, common sense policies that help women prevent unintended pregnancy and, thus, reduce the need for abortion.  And what better way to start than by empowering rape survivors at a time when they are most vulnerable.  Congress should follow the lead of states like Minnesota and Connecticut and pass the CARE Act today.

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