Despite protests at similar giveaways across the country on Dec. 6, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania isn't expecting commotion when it hands out free emergency contraception to men and women on Feb. 14.
Often referred to as "morning-after" contraception, EC involves taking a high dose of conventional hormonal birth control. The dosage prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, a fact advocates say means it is not a method of abortion. But the drug has been controversial regardless: While it was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale without a prescription, by law it is still kept behind pharmacy counters.
It's a good idea, says PPWP Vice President for Public Affairs Erika Fricke, to keep a supply of the pills on hand rather than waiting until they become a necessity, because the sooner they're taken the more effective they are. The pills have a several-year shelf life, she points out. The clinic will have 200 pill packs on hand for the giveaway; they normally cost up to $25 each at the clinic. The Feb. 14 giveaway will take place at the PPWP clinic, 933 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
In Philadelphia and surrounding areas, similar giveaways held late last year were met with public objections. A Dec. 21 article in the Philly-based Catholic Standard & Times characterized the medication handout as encouraging promiscuous behavior, and noted several area demonstrations.
Reached in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22 at a "March for Life" against Roe v. Wade on its 34th anniversary, Marylou Gartner, political director of the local People Concerned for the Unborn Child, said she hadn't heard about Planned Parenthood's move. But it's likely her group will protest the drug's handout, she said.
Says Fricke: "Our aim is to let people know it's here, it works, and they can get it."