A federal judge ruled Friday, April 5, 2013, that Plan B, the “morning-after” pill, must be available to women of all ages without a prescription within 30 days.
Right now, Plan B One-Step, a form of emergency contraception, is available to women 17 and older over the counter. Women ages 16 and younger must get a prescription from a doctor to obtain Plan B. The sooner the pill is taken after unprotected sex, the more effective it is.
The present form of Plan B is a one-step pill. It contains 1.5 milligrams of a progestin. Depending on where you are in your cycle, it can either prevent or delay ovulation or interfere with the fertilization of an egg, said Greg Yeakel, pharmacist at Thielen Student Health.
The availability of Plan B has changed rapidly over the past 14 years, Yeakel said.
“In 1999 the FDA approved Plan B two-dose regimen, in 2009 they approved Plan B One Step, and in 2013 it became available without a prescription,” Yeakel said.
Yeakel said even though the judge ruled for this law to go into effect immediately, that doesn't mean emergency contraception will be available for women ages 16 and younger over the counter instantly.
“We are still waiting for direction on how to administer this,” Yeakel said. “Does it mean May 6, 30 days afterwards we'd have product for a 16-year-old? No, probably not. We will have to wait and see.”
The old ruling, making it only possible for women 17 and older to obtain Plan B over the counter, could have created confusion and barriers, said Jill June, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland CEO and president.
“It created a delay in access when pharmacy windows are closed or when pharmacists provide misinformation about who can purchase emergency contraception,” June said. “Additionally, it could take days for a woman to get an appointment with her provider for a prescription.”
June said the ruling made on April 5, will help eliminate these problems.
“This ruling will remove the barriers a person might face accessing emergency contraception.”
The ruling will allow for younger women to have quick access to the emergency contraception pill, but June and Yeakel are not confident an increase in sales of Plan B will be seen.
“This ruling will make it easier for young people to access emergency contraception, but studies show that teens understand emergency contraception is not intended for ongoing, regular use,” June said, “Research has also showed that unprotected sex does not increase when young people have easier access to emergency contraception.”
Women tend to find Plan B if they want it no matter what, Yeakel said.