Isle law facilitates
morning-after pill

A federal delay in deciding whether to allow over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill won't affect Hawaii -- one of seven states already offering emergency contraception services.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it hadn't determined how to ensure that young teenagers didn't use the morning-after pill, sold under the brand Plan B.

The state Legislature passed a law in 2003 authorizing sales of the morning-after pill under administrative rules developed by state Board of Pharmacy and approved by Gov. Linda Lingle in December.

Women and teenagers 14 and older are able to get the pill from pharmacists who are trained and certified for the program and have collaborative agreements with physicians.

Youths 14 and older are allowed to obtain family planning services without parental consent under a law from the 1960s, said Nancy Partika, executive director of the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition.

Several-hundred women have received the pills since the program began in April, she said. At least 50 Hawaii pharmacists are participating.

The EC Access Work group is contacting every pharmacy in the state and encouraging them to participate, she said. It is also planning a public information campaign for women and teens.

Other states with the program are Washington, Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire and New Mexico. Massachusetts legislators are expected this fall to override their governor's veto of nonprescription Plan B sales.

In Washington and other states, the program has dramatically decreased abortions and unintended pregnancies and it is "acting as a bridge to treatment for women who have not gone in for reproductive health care," Partika said.

Hawaii pharmacists are referring women and teens to the collaborating doctor or their own provider, she said.

A woman who requests the pill is interviewed by the pharmacist with standardized questions, she said. Then, based on a profile, the pharmacist decides whether to dispense it, she said.

"But it's not over the counter. It would have been good to have the federal OK for women to go in and access it without a prescription over the counter," she said.

To find the closest pharmacy offering emergency contraceptive pills, call the national hotline: 888-NOT2LATE (668-2- 5283) or Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, 951-5805, or see these Web sites: www.go2ec.org or www.not2late.com.

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