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Is Emergency Contraception Readily Available?


Each year there are approximately 750,000 teenage pregnancies in the United States, 85 percent of which are not intentional. Emergency contraception is available to women over the age of 17 without a prescription; those younger than 17 require a prescription. If taken after every contraception failure, it could prevent half of all non-intentional pregnancies. The study, "Pharmacy Communication to Adolescents and Their Physicians Regarding Access to Emergency Contraception​," in the April 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online March 26) examines the availability of emergency contraception in five major cities. Using a standardized script, callers posed as a 17-year-old seeking emergency contraception and as a physician treating a 17-year-old. 

The authors found that 80 percent of pharmacies stated that emergency contraception was available on the day of the call. However, 19 percent told adolescent callers that it would be impossible to obtain emergency contraception under any circumstances because of their age, while 3 percent of physician callers were told the same thing when calling the same pharmacies and asking the same questions. In general, adolescent callers were put on hold more often and spoke less often to pharmacists. The authors conclude that misinformation creates a barrier to timely access to emergency contraception.​


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit