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CONTEXT: Little is known about how written family planning clinic policy regarding emergency contraception, as well as personal characteristics, behaviors and attitudes, may influence a woman to use emergency contraception.

METHODS: Between June 2001 and July 2002, women attending publicly funded family planning clinics in Pennsylvania were enrolled in an 18-month longitudinal study. Half attended clinics with a policy of offering emergency contraception in advance; the remainder had only emergent access to the drug. After providing baseline data, women completed monthly automated phone surveys about recent sexual activity, contraceptive use and attitudes toward pregnancy. Characteristics associated with recent use of emergency contraception were examined using multivariate logistic regression.

RESULTS: Responses to 3,700 phone surveys from 729 women showed that 25% of those who attended clinics offering advance access used emergency contraception at least once during the study, compared with 8% who attended emergent access clinics. Women attending advance access clinics had significantly elevated odds of having used emergency contraception in the past month (odds ratio, 2.6). Other characteristics positively associated with the likelihood of recent emergency contraception use were familiarity with the drug, having a new sex partner and having unprotected sex at least once (2.0 each); negative feelings toward pregnancy (1.4); and using condoms as one’s main contraceptive method (1.8).

CONCLUSIONS: In addition to discussing and offering advance emergency contraception, providers should further explore specific behaviors and attitudes associated with emergency contraception use.