College Republicans and Colorado anti-abortion groups both disagree with Ritter’s action
Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter signed the first pro-choice bill, Emergency Contraception Information for Sexual Assault Survivors, to come into law in Colorado since 1999 on March 15, 2007.
Senate Bill 60 allows women who have been survivors of sexual assault to receive access to information and tools regarding emergency contraception, regardless of a doctor or hospital’s personal beliefs or affiliations.
No pro-choice measure of this stature has been signed in Colorado since former Republican Gov. Bill Owens approved legislation to expand family planning services to low-income Coloradans.
With this bill signing, Ritter fulfilled one of his campaign promises, and pro-choice advocates celebrated what they had been waiting for for the past five years.
“I’ve been waiting for this bill to pass for a long time,” said Teresa Wroe, the professional coordinator for COURAGE, CU’s Rape and Gender Education Program. “It is important for people to know what their options are, especially after a traumatic event. They need to know how to feel safe and move on.”
Statistics from Pro-Choice Colorado said one in four Coloradan women will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. Nationally, between 25,000 and 32,000 women become pregnant as a result of rape each year, but an estimated 22,000 to 25,000 of these pregnancies could be prevented by emergency contraception.
According to Planned Parenthood, emergency contraception is a safe and effective means of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. Emergency contraception has been available for more than 30 years and must be taken within 120 hours, or five days, after unprotected intercourse.
“EC reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancy by 75-89 percent when started within 72 hours,” said Planned Parenthood’s Web site.
The sooner a woman can obtain emergency contraception, the higher the chances are for her to not become pregnant.
EC contains similar hormones found in birth control pills and prevents pregnancy by keeping the egg from leaving the ovary and keeping the sperm from meeting the egg.
“I think this is a really important bill not only for reproductive rights, but also for freedom,” said Megan Kasch, a senior sociology and women and gender studies major. “Freedom is having all options available to you and making a choice that is best for you. That choice is your own and not someone else’s.”
The College Republicans provided this statement: “The College Republicans at CU have not taken a stance on emergency contraception. However, we feel that doctors should be empowered to make their own decisions. Forcing doctors to provide information in any capacity is a dangerous precedent. Also, the livelihood of some medical care facilities is based on religious principles. Therefore, we do not support the bill. Governor Ritter has essentially cleared the way for the government to gain more control over the oversight of hospitals. We do not favor government expansion in any way. Governor Ritter has established himself as a legitimate threat to the free market by signing this bill.”
The College Republicans are not alone in their objection to the bill. Colorado Right to Life group opposed the new law, saying the drug is falsely marketed as contraception when in fact it can cause early-stage abortion.
“We reject the claim that it is emergency contraception because we know that in many cases … it prevents implantation of a newly created embryo, and that’s a human life,” Leslie Hanks, with Right to Life, said in an interview by Gudrun Schultz.
Under SB 60, health care facilities will be encouraged to provide training about emergency contraception for their employees in order to counsel and inform their patients on all of the available resources.
Here on the CU campus, Wardenburg Health Center offers emergency contraception and information for patients, especially for sexual assault victims.
Mary Friedrichs is the director of Wardenburg’s Victim Assistance Program, which responds to sexual assaults, sexual harassments, stalking, intimate violence threats and offers emotional counseling. She said sexual assault victims need to know there is emergency contraception available to them.
“I think it is really really important. (Emergency contraception) was always available at Wardenburg, right then and there, but who knows what could change with the funding and budget talks,” Friedrichs said.
Friedrichs said she believes a big part of the traumatic experience of a sexual assault is not having someone there to talk to about your options.
“Wardenburg does supply emergency contraception, so this bill is not new to them; we would have informed a victim or patient before it was passed,” Friedrichs said. “But it does change in a hospital with a religious affiliation who did not relay this information to its patients/victims before.”
Anissa Jones, a registered nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner, or a SANE, for St. Anthony’s North, said this bill has not really effected her practice either because SANE has been able to educate their patients on all options, including emergency contraception.
“This has been part of our protocol and within our hospital this was not a problem,” Jones said.
According to St. Anthony Hospitals, SANE examiners are registered nurses specially trained and educated to provide comprehensive care to survivors of sexual assault. There are about 120 SANE programs operating nationwide, 11 of which are in Colorado. But SB 60 now allows more access to emergency contraception for all sexual assault victims across the state, not just at a select few hospitals.
“In a facility where no SANE program exists, (the victims) can now be aware the option does exist,” Jones said.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Elizabeth Stortroen at Elizabeth.Stortroen@thecampuspress.com.