The new campaign aims to increase access to the morning-after pill following the Bush administration's refusal to allow the emergency birth control to be sold over the counter nationwide.
"We want women to be prepared, well before a contraceptive failure or unprotected sex occurs. Afterward may be too late," said Dr. Michael Mennuti, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The morning-after pill is a high dose of regular birth control pills. It cuts the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if used within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or just forgetting routine contraception.
The earlier it's taken, the more effective it is. But it can be hard to find a doctor to write a prescription in time, especially on weekends and holidays.
Citing assessments that easier access could halve the nation's 3 million annual unplanned pregnancies, ACOG and many women's groups have backed an attempt by Plan B's maker to sell the morning-after pill without a prescription, the way it's sold in Britain and Canada — and in a handful of U.S. states.
But last year, top-ranking Food and Drug Administration officials overruled their own scientists' decision that nonprescription sales would be safe and, citing concern that young teens might use the pills, indefinitely postponed a decision.
The drug has no effect if a woman is already pregnant. It works by blocking ovulation or fertilization.
The new "Ask me" campaign takes the discussion back to doctors' offices. ACOG is providing its 49,000 members with waiting-room posters to urge women of childbearing age to ask about a prescription they could keep on hand in case they need emergency contraception in the future.