Women across the country are still struggling for access to emergency contraception despite new federal rules that make Plan B One-Step an over-the-counter drug, according to a new campaign launched by Ms. Magazine and Media Consortium.
In a bit of do-it-yourself investigative work, Ms. staffers working on "Where Is Your Plan B?" fanned out across Los Angeles pharmacies looking for how Plan B One-Step is being sold. They discovered that most pharmacies still keep the drug behind the counter or in a locked case, requiring women to ask for assistance and endure the embarrassment of revealing, often to a complete stranger, that they've recently had unprotected sex.
While many retailers are likely doing this because Plan B One-Step is one of the more pricey items on pharmacy shelves -- and contraceptives are historically stolen at a higher rate than many other products -- it also means that women cannot purchase emergency contraception outside pharmacy hours, even though the drug is more effective the sooner it is taken after having sex.
Additionally, Ms. staffers found that many pharmacy employees do not know the law well enough, causing them to ask for identification from women who look like they could be under age 17. That is illegal under the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines issued in June, which requires pharmacies to sell the drug on demand to "all women of child-bearing potential."
All of these things amount to persistent structural barriers between women and emergency contraception, the groups contend. In response, they have launched an online tool to collect data from pharmacy customers, which will ultimately be used to create a map of locations that offer the drug in a truly over-the-counter fashion, along with those that restrict access or deny it altogether.
This video is from Ms. Magazine, published Monday, Oct. 7, 2013.
Photo: Flickr user Army Medicine/Katelin Doran, creative commons licensed.