In light of the recent FDA changes regarding the sale of Plan B, the interns started talking about sharing their own experiences purchasing emergency contraceptives. Our experiences have been pretty diverse – some people were received by helpful pharmacists, some…not so much – but our experiences made it clear to us how important it is for women, especially younger women, to have access to emergency contraceptives.
One Saturday night last spring when the condom broke while I was with my partner, I knew I had access to Plan B but didn’t really want to use it and wasn’t sure if I really should. We realized that the condom had broken very quickly and my partner didn’t think it was a big deal. I was still worried and a little bit upset, but wasn’t sure if I was just making a fuss out of nothing. And even if I had been convinced that I definitely should get it, the idea of going up to the check-in desk at the student health center and say that I was there to get emergency contraception was, well, mortifying.
Luckily enough, the next day I came down with a bad cold so I went to the student health center (to get some decongestants, of course). While I was there I knew that I should probably ask about Plan B, but didn’t know how to bring it up. I was lucky that the nurse noticed that I was upset and encouraged me to open up – she talked through it with me and reminded me that taking the pill was a reasonable, responsible thing to do. So I took it.
The reactions to my choice were mixed: when I finally told my partner about it, he was dismissive and said that it was unnecessary and that I was overreacting. When I talked to a close friend of mine about it, though, she really set things straight for me and helped me to realize that taking Plan B didn’t make me a slut, or irresponsible, or anything else to be ashamed of. I am thankful for my friend’s support, but I wish that even before I took Plan B that someone had told me that it was okay to use emergency contraception, and that my friends would be there support me and not judge me. We all need that to really have control of these choices.
I’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed to ask for birth control and I don’t think anyone should be. So, with that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the first time I went to get emergency contraception from my local Planned Parenthood, I walked up to the representative at the front counter with confidence and loudly exclaimed, “I need Plan B!”
I had seen a few people before me approach the counter and quietly relay their requests, but I didn’t see any logical reason for me to lower my voice. (Apparently it would’ve been helpful for the comfort of others, because immediately after I asked for the pill everyone in the waiting room looked up at me in shock except the staff.) The receptionist’s reaction reaffirmed my belief that there was nothing to be ashamed of – she simply responded, “Okay, please fill out these forms and bring them to me when you’re done.” I filled them out and returned them as requested. I waited for some time in order to receive Plan B, but it wasn’t too terrible – they had a television playing the local news station and pamphlets galore to keep me busy.
After about 20 minutes they called my name, unlocked the door, and let me into the back of the facility. I was greeted by a friendly nurse who asked for some information to confirm my identity and then asked me for why I needed the pill. I received the Plan B I requested and another pill to keep in case I needed it again so that I had it on hand. I signed off on their paperwork and I was out of there just like that, at no cost to me. Planned Parenthood made getting Plan B much, much easier than I had expected.
The first, and only, time I made the decision to purchase an emergency contraceptive was one of the first times I ever had sex (as if that wasn’t nerve-wracking enough). It was during a long-term relationship with a very open and supportive guy who offered to get me Plan B the second the condom broke. I was overwhelmed and the circumstances were such that we were fairly confident we had noticed in time to avoid any accidents, so I turned down his offer to go get it right away. (Hindsight is 20/20.)
The next evening I told my roommate, who was several years older and had been sexually active for a while, about what happened. She shared her two or three stories of taking emergency contraception and reasoned to me that even if I was pretty sure noting had gone wrong, 50 dollars was definitely worth my piece of mind for the next month. I asked her if she would be willing to go with me to the pharmacy and she agreed; in the store, I traipsed off to the family planning aisle and started trying to decipher the difference between Plan B and its generic form, Next Choice. I chose Plan B, and had to carry a card to the counter in order to get it.
I tentatively walked up to the pharmacist, grateful that it was a relatively young woman. I wasn’t prepared for her response: she glared as I handed over the Plan B card and silently walked back into the pharmacy shelves. She returned a moment later and said they were out of Plan B, so I asked if they had Next Choice. She nodded, so I went back, grabbed a Next Choice card, and returned to the counter. She just continued to glare and didn’t say another word to me for the duration for the transaction. Admittedly, my assumption that a young woman would be accepting of another young woman purchasing emergency contraception was presumptuous, but I would like to think I live in a society that could at least be satisfied when it sees its members making an attempt to take care of themselves.
Anyone who thinks I could have raised a child a year ago is quite mistaken, as is anyone who thinks I could do it now. What a lovely world it would be if women, and all people, trusted each other to be making the right decisions for their bodies, their circumstances, and themselves.
I woke up one morning during my first semester of college and needed to take Plan B. This particular morning happened to be the first day in 2 months that I would be leaving Canada in order to go back home to Virginia. And because of irresponsible, first-semester-of-college related reasons, I had overslept and could very seriously miss my flight. I threw whatever clothes I could find in a duffle bag, grabbed my passport, and hurried off to the pharmacy.
Blinded by the same embarrassing ignorance that allowed me to try and use an American twenty to pay for my first meal in Canada, I assumed the laws regarding Plan B in Toronto were the same as they were back home. My only experience buying Plan B was paying a friend’s 19-year-old sister 60 bucks to run into CVS while 16-year-old me bit my nails in the backseat of her car, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was now of legal age, true, but what kind of questions would the pharmacist ask me? Would it be embarrassing? Am I going to have to go into gory details about my recent sexual experience to a complete stranger? How long is this going to take? Am I seriously going to miss my flight and have to spend Canadian Thanksgiving alone, sad, and possibly pregnant, eating Oreos on the floor of my dorm?
I bee-lined for the back of the store and stepped up to the counter. Groping around my bag for my ID, I mumbled out apologies and explained to the pharmacist that I made a mistake and needed to purchase Plan B. He glanced up and pointed behind me. “It’s by the condoms.”
“Oh.” Confused, I thanked him and turned around to investigate. Plan B was indeed in aisle 6, comfortably nestled between the pregnancy tests and condoms. I grabbed it and trotted back to the pharmacist to pay. He politely told me I could pay at the front of the store so I wouldn’t have to wait in line, so I did that. I also bought some Advil and a Dr. Pepper. Made my flight. It should always be that simple.