CONTEXT: Advance provision of emergency contraception increases the likelihood of its use, yet little is known about the factors that influence successful implementation of an advance provision policy in publicly funded family planning clinics.
METHODS: Data on knowledge of, attitudes toward and use of emergency contraception were collected from 211 patients attending four Title X–funded clinics in Pennsylvania in 2001–2002. In addition, 22 staff from the four clinics were interviewed regarding barriers to and facilitators of advance provision in 2004–2005, and 111 staff from 46 clinics completed related surveys in 2005. Qualitative data underwent content analysis, and frequencies and bivariate associations between variables were calculated for the survey data.
RESULTS: Most patients said they would use emergency contraception (80%) and believed it should be easy to obtain (93%), although 46% thought it is a form of abortion. Patients’ familiarity with the method, attitudes toward it and self-efficacy regarding its use were not associated with most demographic or reproductive health characteristics. While nearly all interviewed staff endorsed routine advance provision, only about half of survey respondents offered it “very often” at patients’ initial or annual visits. Barriers to advance provision included staff prejudgment of patients’ needs and ability to use the method, time constraints and inefficiencies in clinic procedures.
CONCLUSIONS: Strategies that may facilitate advance provision of emergency contraception include emphasizing the need for staff to offer it during all patient visits, providing patient-friendly information and streamlining clinic procedures.