Apr. 7, 2005 – Governor Bill Owens vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have required Colorado hospitals to inform sexual assault survivors about emergency contraption pills.
Under House Bill 1042, all hospitals in the state would have had to inform rape victims who were not yet pregnant about emergency contraception, then offer to dispense the pills or refer them to pharmacies that could dispense them. Individual health care professionals would have been allowed to refuse to provide the contraception on religious or moral grounds.
Gov. Owens, a Catholic, said he rejected the proposal because it would have forced church-based hospitals to go against their own moral values, and because it might have caused a woman to "innocently violate her personal, moral and religious beliefs about when life begins."
Womenâ€™s health advocacy groups said Wednesday that the governor did not have the right to impose his religious beliefs on rape survivors. The billâ€™s supporters, including sexual assault prevention groups, vowed to endorse similar legislation next year.
The governorâ€™s decision comes at a time when national organizations have been pressuring the federal government over the availability of emergency contraception to women who have been raped as well as those who need the pills to prevent pregnancy after consensual intercourse. Womenâ€™s rights groups were outraged earlier this year when newly released Justice Department guidelines on the treatment of sexual assault survivors blatantly omitted information about emergency pregnancy prevention.
Also in January, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delayed a long-awaited decision on whether to allow Plan B, an emergency contraceptive currently available by doctorâ€™s prescription only, to become the first over-the-counter drug of its kind sold in the US. In doing so, the Agency ignored the overwhelming advice of its own expert panels.
Rights groups have accused the FDA of bowing to political pressure from the Religious Right and conservative lawmakers, who oppose emergency contraceptives on moral grounds.
Emergency contraception does not affect a woman if she is already pregnant, but successfully prevents pregnancy up to 89 percent of the time if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. Womenâ€™s rights advocates argue that obstacles to obtaining the drug must be eliminated because the pills are most effective the sooner they are taken.