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National expert on emergency contraception to speak 

Press Release

Planned Parenthood of Arkansas

Two public meetings on Emergency Contraception (EC) will feature Don Downing, R.Ph., a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy and a national expert on the medication.

The meetings will take place on Monday, Nov. 13, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center, 3805 W. 12th St., Little Rock. A second meeting will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Garland County Library, 1427 Malvern Ave., Hot Springs. Both meetings are free and open to the public.

Downing’s visit to Arkansas is sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma Inc. (PPAEO) as part of the health organization’s efforts to raise awareness on the medication. Downing is noted for his medical insight on EC and his politically balanced approach to the medication.

“The need for accurate public understanding is particularly important because the medication will soon be available without a prescription for persons eighteen and older,” Marvin Schwartz, PPAEO Vice President of Community Affairs, said. “Many people are still unaware of emergency contraception and its proven ability to prevent unintended pregnancy.”

At the meetings, Downing will speak on issues:
§ What is EC, how does it work, what it does and does not do
§ New regulations following the recent FDA ruling for over-the-counter status
§ Pharmacist's right to refusal and other access issues
§ Arkansas legislation relating to EC and rape survivors

A ruling by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year will allow EC to be available over-the-counter to persons 18 years and older. Persons 17 years and younger will still require a prescription. The new access status for the medication is expected to take place before the end of the year.

Use of EC following unprotected sex is an effective technique to avoid unintended pregnancy, Schwartz said. The medication will not cause an abortion and won’t harm a developing fetus, he said. The Alan Guttmacher Institute estimates that each year half of all pregnancies are unintended, and of these 3,000,000 unintended pregnancies, half end in abortion. It is estimated that greater use of EC could cut the number of unintended pregnancies in half.

Schwartz identified Arkansas issues relating to EC that will be discussed at Downing’s meetings. These include the rights of pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions, a 2005 legislative bill that attempted to provide information on EC to rape survivors in hospital emergency rooms, and an Arkansas Division of Health policy that prohibits access to EC at county health units.

“Arkansans need clear understanding of EC and the changing policies that allow its use,” Schwartz said. “We believe this medication has been overly politicized and subject to enormous misunderstanding. More truthful understanding will lead to greater public demand and use, and we will see a dramatic decrease in Arkansas’ unintended pregnancies as a result.”

The Little Rock meeting is hosted by the PPAEO Central Arkansas Action Board, The Hot Springs meeting is hosted by CHOICE Hot Springs, an action board of PPAEO.

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