July 27, 2005 – The governor of Massachusetts vetoed a measure yesterday that would have broadened access to emergency contraception in the state by requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape survivors and allowing pharmacists to dispense the drug without a doctorâ€™s prescription.
Emergency contraception, popularly known as the "morning-after pill," is a strong dose of hormones that, when taken soon enough after unprotected intercourse, can prevent an egg from being released, prevent fertilization of an egg or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Since the drug has no effect on an implanted egg, proponents of emergency contraception say that it does not cause an abortion. Pro-life groups disagree, tending to consider pregnancy to begin at fertilization.
In defending his veto, which the legislature is widely expected to override, Governor Mitt Romney said he had determined that the emergency contraceptives currently available sometimes cause an abortion, rather than prevent pregnancy. Since he promised during his campaign not to alter the abortion laws of Massachusetts in either direction, he said, he was obligated to nix the bill.
But reproductive rights groups charged the governor with breaking a campaign promise in support of emergency contraception. They protested Romneyâ€™s decision, chanting, "Mitt Romney, we want the pill. Keep your word, sign the bill!" according to the Boston Globe.
Proponents of the measure also accused the governor of changing his mind on emergency contraception in order to make himself more appealing to conservatives as he considers a presidential run in 2008.
Currently, emergency contraceptives are only available with a doctorâ€™s prescription in most of the US. But since the drug is most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse, reproductive rights advocates have sought to increase ready access to it. So far, the Food and Drug Administration has failed to approve an application to make Plan B, a commercial form of the contraceptive, accessible over-the-counter. A few states have passed laws similar laws allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives directly.