DOJ Refuses FOIA
Planned Parenthood Criticizes the Department Of Justice's Refusal to Release Records on Treatment Guidelines for Sexual Assault Survivors; National Protocol Omits Pregnancy Prevention Information
WASHINGTON, DC — Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) was furious to learn yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, that was submitted on behalf of a large coalition of reproductive rights groups including PPFA, for records related to the department's decision to omit all mention of emergency contraception (EC) from its national guidelines on the treatment of sexual assault survivors.
The guidelines, which were released by DOJ in 2004, do not include recommendation that sexual assault survivors be told about emergency contraception or that it be made available to them. EC can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy if taken within five days of having unprotected intercourse and the sooner it is administered the more effective it is. It is estimated that 25,000 pregnancies occur each year as a result of sexual assault.
"It is unconscionable that DOJ omitted emergency contraception from its assault survivor guidelines. This is the definition of playing politics with women's health," said PPFA Interim President Karen Pearl. "Now they add further insult by refusing to explain how they made such a misguided decision. American women deserve the DOJ's protection. They should not have to suffer from decisions made to please an extremist minority."
While the Justice Department did not release earlier drafts of the protocol, as sought in the FOIA request, it did provide a set of documents used to develop the preliminary national protocol, including treatment recommendations from the American College of Emergency Physicians, several state protocols and an article on forensic evidence collection. All of those documents, unlike the national protocol, discuss pregnancy prevention in detail, providing either instructions for prescribing EC or specifically recommending that EC be offered to women who have been sexually assaulted.
"DOJ is ignoring all expert medical recommendations in denying women access to the most effective tool to prevent pregnancy after sexual assault," added Pearl. "That DOJ is refusing to provide this information leads us to believe that they know their own records would prove that their recommendations are not scientifically based, but are instead ideologically and politically motivated.