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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

With Limits On Plan B Purchases Post-Roe, What Are Your Options?

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has limited access to reproductive health care, leading to many purchasing morning-after contraception pills in a hurry. The Plan B pills — both generic and brand name have the active ingredient levonorgestrel — have seen increased demand in pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS, and online stores like Amazon began to limit the number of pills an individual can purchase when demand was extremely high to avoid a shortage. 

People are stockpiling to prepare for the worst case scenario: when sexually active individuals need the pill but contraception is restricted and no longer sold in their state. This reality is very possible, as Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in a concurring opinion that he was in favor of reconsidering Griswold v. Connecticut, the overturn of which would limit access to contraception.

Note that levonorgestrel is not the same as abortion pills such as misoprostol and mifepristone, which are taken together in order to terminate an established pregnancy. Various forms of treatment in preventing pregnancy will be illegal in states that had “trigger laws” designed to go into effect and immediately outlaw abortion after a Roe reversal. These states include Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. It is expected that Mississippi, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas will follow. States like Oklahoma also define life as starting from the moment of conception, meaning forms of contraception can be outlawed. 

This will affect access to not just abortion pills, but also morning-after pills, emergency contraception, and possibly IUDs. State legislators could put laws into effect that declare that all devices that prevent implantation are abortive, and therefore illegal. 

What is the morning-after pill and what are the issues with stockpiling it?

The morning-after pill is an emergency contraceptive different from abortion pills. It works by preventing ovulation and can be purchased without a prescription at your local pharmacy, many online shops like Amazon, Stix, and Wellspring Meds, and nearby family planning clinics or health centers. These emergency contraceptives must be taken within a set range of time since the day of sexual intercourse; most Plan B pills can be taken up to three days after. 

Stockpiling Plan B right now is not a great long-term solution, though, for more than one reason. 

  1. The morning-after pill has a limited shelf life, according to Verywell Health; expiration dates (aka shelf-life) will be printed on the package for easy referral. 
  1. The morning-after pill is not effective if the individual has already begun ovulating. Ovulating signs are often more clear vaginal discharge, tender breasts, and bloating. (Some menstrual tracking apps can help predict the cycle, but it should be noted that you should be careful which apps you use and who they sell your information to, because your data could be used against you.) During ovulation, an egg has already been released and is more likely to be fertilized by sperm; sperm can live in your body for up to six days. Taking a morning-after pill during ovulation won’t harm your body, but you may still be pregnant. 
  1. Some morning-after pills are also less effective for people who weigh more than 155 pounds. The FDA hasn’t made any changes on the therapeutic use of Plan B as there isn’t enough evidence of the link between body weight and contraception efficacy, but it is possible for varying results of abortion for heavier individuals. Ella, however, is proven to be more effective than Plan B regardless of weight. It has better performance in overweight and obese women. Healthline has a comparison chart for the brand names, weight limits, BMI limits, and when to take it.

So, what are your other options post-Roe

Firstly, keep checking whether contraceptives are available in stores near you. In spite of all the possible barriers to efficacy of these pills, if bought in advance and used within the correct time frame, they can save your life without putting you in jeopardy of publicly violating the law. 

When purchasing contraceptive pills, Plan B is the brand name pill but not the only one available to consumers. There are generics for less that will be equally effective because brand name and generic medications have the same active ingredient. 

Some health centers like Planned Parenthood will offer these pills for free or at lower costs if you are not able to purchase or afford them in store or online. 

You can also purchase contraception in person at Walgreens, CVS, Target, Walmart, some grocery-pharmacy chains, and local pharmacies. If they are sold out, chances are they will be back in stock soon since demand is high and pharmaceutical companies know this. Even large stores like the ones above have websites where you can order their stock to be delivered to your address or closest store. Fully online options include Amazon, Stix, Wellspring Meds, wisp, and even Mark Cuban’s online pharmacy Cost Plus Drugs, which is offering steep discounts on birth control and Plan B.

Purchasing condoms to use during sexual intercourse can also be helpful to avoid unwanted pregnancies. For those who are regularly sexually active, getting an intrauterine device (IUD) may be an option you want to consider because IUDs last for years and can be taken out. IUDs are put in by a doctor or nurse and can be expensive, but with health insurance or specific clinics it could be as little as $0. An IUD is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic that is inserted into the uterus. There are two types: hormonal IUDs (such as Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla) and Copper IUDs (such as Paragard).

Hormonal IUDs provide birth control by releasing the hormone progestin which will thicken the mucus in the cervix, thus making it more difficult for sperm to reach and fertilize an egg. It also can thin the lining of the uterus and suppress ovulation cycles, thus preventing the egg from leaving the ovaries during ovulation. 

The Paragard IUD is just a bit of copper which will protect you from pregnancy for up to 12 years. Copper restricts the movement of sperm, preventing it from fertilizing the egg.

IUDs aren’t just preventive care, but they can also be used as emergency contraception. Because they do not depend on whether the individual is ovulating or not, they are the most effective way to prevent pregnany after sex. You can have an IUD put in within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex and it will be 99% effective, according to the NHS. 

An additional resource may be community abortion funds near you. The National Network of Abortion Funds has a list of local abortion funds around the country. The Carolina Abortion Fund supports North and South Carolina, and will likely be an accessible hub for the South. Clinics in Illinois will also serve a similar purpose for more conservative and red Midwestern states. Arizona for Reproductive Freedom has set up petitions to get a reproductive freedom amendment on the ballot in order to provide a state constitutional right for reproductive freedom in their own state; if you are a registered voter in the state, you can sign the petition at an in-person location by July 5th. Then, keep a watch out for the amendment being on the ballot. 

None of these options are permanent solutions to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but they may help individuals who are in desperate need of protecting their own health and way of life.

Jennalynn is a non-binary, Asian American student at St. John's University located in Queens, New York. While they are a Pharmacy (PharmD) major, their passions in life are climate activism, photography, and writing. They have been featured in Teen Vogue, The Luna Collective, SUSTAIN The Mag, and are a staff writer at their university newspaper. Check out their website and socials (@jennuinn) to see their work!