California allowed women access to emergency contraception (EC) without a physicians' prescription in 2002.
To assess knowledge of and perceived access to EC among California women outside of family planning settings, we administered a computerized survey to women, age 18���45 years, who could become pregnant, in the waiting areas of two urgent care clinics in San Francisco in 2005.
Four hundred forty-six women were enrolled. Most women [87%; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 83���89%] in this well-educated (48% had college degrees), ethnically diverse sample knew that a postcoital contraceptive exists. However, many women (32%; 95% CI, 28���37%) did not know EC is currently available in California. Only 49% of women knew that using EC will have no adverse effect on their future fertility and only 15% knew that EC will not cause a miscarriage or birth defects if used by a woman who is pregnant. Seven percent thought EC was not at all effective and 27% thought EC was somewhat or very unsafe. Eight percent had EC at home for future use.
Functional knowledge of EC remains limited in California. Public education campaigns are needed to allow women to benefit from pharmacy direct access to EC.
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Published online: January 17, 2007
Accepted: November 15, 2006
Received in revised form: November 15, 2006
Received: September 29, 2006
© 2007 Elsevier Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.