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Plan 'B' Morning After Pill to be Available Over the Counter

by Britany Salsbury

Attempts by conservative pressure groups to prevent the emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B, from becoming available over-the-counter have failed.

Plan B, commonly known as “the morning after pill,” has been for sale without prescription in several European countries for quite some time. The FDA, however, appeared to be stalling over making the medication more readily available in the U.S. Courts were concerned that the FDA may have been basing their decisions on moral, rather than medical, judgements. In April, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s deputy operations commissioner, was one of three individuals who gave court-ordered depositions regarding these suspicions.

Dr. Curtis Rosebraugh, an agency medical officer for the FDA, wrote in a March 2004 memo, “As an example, [Woodcock] stated that we could not anticipate, or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an ‘urban legend’ status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B,” according to Newsday.

The perpetual debate over emergency contraception has drawn attention from interest groups on opposite sides of the spectrum. Women’s health advocates view the FDA’s decision as a huge step towards combating unplanned pregnancies. Meanwhile, religious conservatives, many of whom oppose birth control in general, mistakenly believe emergency contraception to be synonymous with abortion.

“I always ask if patients know about it,” says Rachel Kacenjar, a women’s health clinic worker. “I’d say only about forty percent of them do.”

Additionally, asserts Kacenjar, who has worked for years educating women on how to avoid unplanned pregnancies, many people avoid asking for emergency contraception because of popular misconceptions regarding the pill. “If you just Google it,” she says, “you’ll immediately find several sites that claim it’s terrible for you, that it causes cancer, causes abortion, causes infertility, is painful to take.”

Such information is not based in fact, however, says a representative from Planned Parenthood, Chicago Area. “Emergency contraception contains hormones similar to those produced by a woman’s body,” she says, asserting that Plan B presents no greater risk than taking a birth control pill.

Once Plan B becomes available over-the-counter, women over the age of 18 will be able to ask for it at the counter of most pharmacies by the end of the year. Because the pill must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, over-the-counter access is an imperative step in the prevention of both unplanned pregnancies and abortion.

“Hopefully, it’ll be easy to get,” says Kacenjar, adding that “women who trust our government to make good decisions regarding their health will feel okay about taking a pill that has always been very safe to take.”

Until emergency contraception is more available, however, there are a number of options in the Chicago area. Planned Parenthood, Chicago Area, provides any female patient who comes in for an annual exam with a year-long prescription of Plan B that may be filled at any time, and at any pharmacy before expiration. The pill can also be purchased at any Planned Parenthood office after a brief exam, so that the patient does not actually have to visit a pharmacy. On the organization’s website (, women and their partners may also order emergency contraception for a $40 fee and without going to an office. Those without internet access can call 1-866-222-EC4U.

For further information, Princeton University runs a highly informational website,, which goes so far as to include tips and support for visitors who plan to call for a prescription. A number of providers, both public and private, are available in the greater Chicago area, and, Kacenjar claims, if all else fails “most local abortion clinics also carry it. It cuts out the pharmacy middle man. I would also check family planning agencies and most public hospitals.”