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Assessment of barriers to access of emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors in Alabama

Michelle Wang, The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Project abstract

In the United States, 1 in 5 women report being sexually assaulted at some point in their life. Despite the fact that studies have shown that 5% of rapes lead to pregnancy, other research has shown that there is a gross underutilization of emergency contraception (EC) in prophylactic care for sexual assault survivors. In fact, a recent study found that almost 10% of surveyed emergency physicians would not prescribe contraception to a patient in cases of rape.

While there have been some studies that examine prophylactic care for survivors of sexual assault in other states, there has not been any previous such study conducted in the state of Alabama. Furthermore, there have not been any secondary assessments to understand the causes of underutilization.

Within the proposed study, we aim to quantify how often emergency contraception is offered to sexual assault survivors in Alabama emergency departments and understand the underlying cause for the underutilization. We intend to gather our data using two surveys: first, a policy-focused survey distributed to hospital administrators at all emergency departments in Alabama and second, a practice and opinion-based survey of providers with prescribing power (i.e. physicians) in those same Alabama emergency departments.

The right to have and preserve a sexual assault evidence collection kit is federally protected with the recent passing of the historic bill of rights for sexual assault survivors (Public Law No: 114-236); however, it is now in the hands of state legislators and politicians to interpret what kind of healthcare sexual assault survivors are entitled to. Alabama currently does not have a state policy in regards to emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors. It is thus of great importance to increase the amount of evidence-based research about state-specific current practices and attitudes towards emergency contraception as stakeholders move forward in recommending and enforcing best practices for protecting the welfare of sexual assault survivors.


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