Months after the federal Indian Health Service said it was finalizing a policy that would make emergency contraception more accessible to American Indian women, advocates say they're still waiting. And in the meantime, Native women face a patchwork of policies at hospitals and clinics that don't always ensure timely access to the medication.
Across the country, any woman 17 or older can buy emergency contraception from behind the counter at retail pharmacies. But the Indian Health Service has no retail pharmacies. Instead, Native women must visit a clinic, urgent care facility or emergency room and have a consultation before being prescribed the medicine that is dispensed on-site.
The Indian Health Service's chief medical officer said in May that the agency is working on a new policy aimed at allowing pharmacies to give Plan B directly to patients.
The IHS has since declined to discuss when that policy might be released.