Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault Survivors
Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after a victim has been sexually assaulted, but before she is pregnant. It is a series of hormone pills that work in three ways:
- Delay in release of an egg from the ovary
- Prevent fertilization of an egg
- Preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus
Emergency contraception is prevention of a pregnancy, not a termination. If the victim was already pregnant when she was sexually assaulted, emergency contraception will not affect the pregnancy.
To ensure compassionate care for sexual assault victims and in accordance with the Health Care Facilities Act, the Department has developed minimum requirements for the physical and psychological treatment of sexual assault victims by Pennsylvania hospitals. The regulations provide minimum requirements to be observed by all hospitals for sexual assault emergency services, which include services related to assessment and prophylactic treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, counseling regarding the assault either on site or at a rape crisis center, and information and services related to emergency contraception.
The regulations include an exemption from requirements relating to the provision of emergency contraception services for hospitals that believe provision of that particular service would be contrary to the stated religious and moral beliefs of the hospital. The regulations also provide that hospitals currently offering the most limited range of services and electing to refer all emergency patients after institution of essential life-saving measures may also elect not to provide any sexual assault emergency services. These hospitals are required to comply with certain notice and transport provisions.
The following hospitals have notified the Department of Health (DOH) that pursuant to 28 Pa. Code 117.57 they may not offer emergency contraception to a sexual assault victim and provide emergency contraception at the hospital at the request of the victim as doing so is contrary to the stated religious or moral beliefs of the hospital. These hospitals must:
Hospitals Not Providing Emergency Contraception To Sexual Assault Victims Based On Religious or Moral Beliefs
Provide individual oral and written notice to the sexual assault victim that emergency contraception is not provided at the hospital due to the stated religious or moral beliefs of the hospital.
Provide oral and written notice to the sexual assault victim of the hospitals obligation to arrange for transportation for the sexual assault victim as stated below, and prominently display such notice in the hospitals emergency service area.
Upon request of the sexual assault victim, arrange for immediate transportation for the sexual assault victim, at no cost to the sexual assault victim, to the closest hospital where the sexual assault victim could obtain emergency contraception. If the sexual assault victims medical condition does not require further inpatient hospital services, the hospital may arrange to transport the victim to a rural health clinic, federally qualified health center, pharmacy, or other similar location where a sexual assault victim could obtain emergency contraception.
All of the facilities noted below have requested an exemption under 117.57(1).
- Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital
- Mercy Philadelphia Hospital
- Mercy Suburban Hospital Norristown
- Nazareth Hospital
- Altoona Regional Health System Bon Secours campus
- Mercy Hospital Scranton
- Muncy Valley Hospital
- St. Mary Medical Center
- Williamsport Hospital & Medical Center
- UPMC Mercy
- Mercy Jeannette Hospital
In addition, under 117.58(1)(ii), St. Agnes Long Term Care Hospital has notified the Department that they have elected not to provide any sexual assault emergency services, as a hospital offering a limited range of emergency services.
For complaints regarding access to Emergency Contraception, call 1-800-254-5164.
When You're Concerned About Quality of Care or Access to Emergency Contraception in a Hospital
The Department of Health is here to assist you. Assuring quality of care and safety for patients is our responsibility. A toll-free hotline is staffed by trained individuals Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., during normal business hours. If you have an emergency during non-business hours, one of our staff will respond to your call. The toll free hotline number is 1-800-254-5164.