I was recently shocked to find out that even though emergency contraception (EC/Plan B) was approved by the FDA for over-the-counter (no prescription) sale to women 18 and over in 2006, as many as 30 percent of pharmacies are not stocking EC or are hiding it behind the counter. After a federal judge mandated in 2013 that the FDA approve EC for sale to women regardless of age, EC should be available to anyone and it should be out on the shelves. Is it? Not according to the many people who report trying to buy EC and being incorrectly told by pharmacists that they are too young to purchase this drug.
What an outrage! Attempts by pharmacies to keep safe contraceptive drugs out of the hands of buyers must be stopped. I recently learned of an easy way that you can help make emergency contraception widely available by checking its availability at your local pharmacy. Women’s reproductive health advocates are asking for help from grassroots activists to conduct an important availability survey during your next visit to the drugstore.
Before you complete the survey, here’s some important background information about EC:
- Emergency contraception (EC) will prevent pregnancy but will not disrupt a pregnancy that already exists. EC should be taken as soon after unprotected sex as possible.
- Access to EC is critically important for many survivors of sexual assault.
- One-pill EC products should be available to any customers, regardless of age or gender, without presenting an ID.
- Some two-pill ECs do have age restrictions and must be kept behind the counter, even though they do not require a prescription. This is the only type of EC which should require the presentation of an ID for purchase.
Go to Your Pharmacy ASAP – The American Society for Emergency Contraception (ASEC) is conducting a survey (open now until the end of August) to determine how many pharmacies are lacking EC on their shelves. They need the help of reproductive health supporters like you! During your next visit to a local pharmacy, see if you can find EC on the shelves and, if so, see if the pharmacy has placed an age or gender restriction on purchasing these drugs.
The survey can be taken on your phone while you are at the pharmacy and will guide you through the process step by step. Preliminary results show 30 percent of pharmacies do not have EC on their shelves. These results are discouraging, but if you contribute to the survey data, reproductive health organizations will be able to better define the root of the EC access problems and take action to remedy it.
If you find that your pharmacy is not stocking EC or is making it unnecessarily hard for young people to access, consider taking a proactive step by filling out the informative letter and giving the letter and EC Guide for Pharmacies and Retailers to the pharmacist or manager.