Running Errands: Looking for Plan B

There is, to my knowledge, only one video on youtube that I’m in:

Watch it. You’ll see me. And a lot of my friends.

If you didn’t catch it, HHS Sebellius and the Obama Administration were ordered, by a Judge to make the Morning After Pill (“MAP” or “Plan B”) truly over the counter for people of all ages. No ID need be shown. Not hide the pills behind the counter, but in the “family planing section” where condoms are.

I wrote about Obama’s failure to comply in early May.

About a week or so after, participated in one of several flash mobs you can see in the video above.

The Obama administration decided to obey the Order from the Judge, and make Plan B OTC, no restrictions.

We were told it would take a month or so for the companies that make Plan B to change their packaging and also allot the stores time to make room on the shelves for Plan B.

Fair enough.

That month is over. And I’ve had to run errands that either require I stop at a pharmacy or pass by a pharmacy.

I decided I was going to start checking out a pharmacy a day to see if Plan B/MAP was, in fact, OTC as it’s legally supposed to be.

The first pharmacy I stopped at, I couldn’t find the MAP in the family planning aisle. I approached the pharmacy, noticed during my brief wait, I noted that there was no Plan B behind the counter. When it was my turn, I inquired where I could find Plan B.  A courteous pharmacy tech walked me to the family planning aisle, and seeing that they had apparently sold out, quickly asked that it be restocked. He then showed me–rather proudly–that this particular store also had it in the snack food aisle (I laughed. Milk Duds and MAP anyone?) as well as displayed very prominently in the beauty section, neatly stacked next to nail polish and mascara.

I thanked him for his help and began to leave. “Did you want to buy, um…anything?” He gestured to the box he was holding of emergency contraceptive.

“Oh no, but thank you. I’m okay, I was just checking to make sure it was available over the counter.”

He smiled, we wished each other a good day, and I left surprised that this one chain pharmacy had done such a great job complying with the law.

I stopped at another pharmacy, with my elementary-age daughter. It was actually in a grocery store, and we were getting juice. I saw the pharmacy and thought, “Let’s see what they have.”

In the family planning aisle, I noted not only the lack of MAP, but that there wasn’t even a space on the shelves. We went to the pharmacy.

A tech, who already looked annoyed, asked “What do you want?”

I asked, “Why don’t you have Plan B over the counter and out in the family planning section?”

He perked up (I can’t figure out why?), and asked me to wait a moment. He dug around the shelves in the back, and pulled out a box of emergency contraception.

“We haven’t gotten the right packaging for over-the-counter sales yet. It was supposed to come this week, but….” He quickly searched the computer. “…looks like it was delayed until next week.”

I thanked him for his help.

Most pharmacies in my totally unscientific survey are stocking the MAP properly–it’s near the condoms and tampons. I thought the pharmacy stocking EC in three places was rather impressive. The beauty aisle made sense–there’s a separate check-out there, and it’s almost always run by a woman. The snack aisle? I don’t know, I’m still laughing to myself over that. But kudos, Walgreens. You surprised me.

Also worth mentioning: the pharmacist on duty heard me ask where MAP was on several occasions. One woman put her right fist in the air. Every single pharmacist was supportive, non-judgmental, and helpful.

This is only reflective of a few places in a blue-city in a red-state. (Okay, we’re purple, but since Rick Scott (Republican) is governor, we’re red as far as I’m concerned.)

I wish everyone could have such good, non-judgmental experiences obtaining medications they may need.

The dangers of disregarding science: Plan B

(Note: The morning-after-pill (aka, “MAP”, aka “Plan B”) is not the so-called “abortion pill,” though the media—including NPR—has been confusing these two very different medications. The morning-after-pill IS emergency contraception.)

How is Obama like his predecessor, Bush?

Sure, there are several ways. We (progressives) don’t like to admit this; it hurts our progressive hearts.

But if we don’t address such issues, we can’t make progress.

Since 2006 or 2007, I’ve been active in a movement to make the morning-after-pill more readily available. A lawsuit has been ongoing for years, and the plaintiffs—? Well, I’m proud to call them my friends.

District Court Judge E. Korman noted the sorry similarity between the Bush administration and the Obama administration when he said,

It turns out that the same policies that President Bush followed were followed by President Obama.” Morning After Pill

[You can read the decision here.]

A few weeks ago, the morning after pill was available over the counter, but behind the counter. And only with ID proving you were over 17.

Confusing, right? And it really makes no sense.

If a condom broke during sex and you wanted to prevent pregnancy, you had to shuffle to the pharmacy, go to the counter, and request the medicine.

And, of course, hope that your pharmacist wasn’t making faces at you, judging you as a slut, and wouldn’t pull the “consciousness clause”, claiming it violated their religious beliefs because it causes an abortion (which, as noted above, it doesn’t.)

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine support making Plan B available over-the-counter without restrictions.

Got that? Without. Restrictions.

In December 2011, Obama and his administration disappointed many by ignoring the science and scientific opinions when the administration decided to limit access to emergency contraception. By limiting access to emergency contraception, the Obama administration went against the recommendations of medical professionals and researchers who had dedicated years studying this exact issue. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg remarked:

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.

In March of this year, Judge Korman agreed with the science. He ruled that the morning-after-pill should be available over-the-counter, and without any restrictions.

The Obama Administration responded by agreeing emergency contraception can be over the counter (next to condoms, etc.), but there will be an age limit of 15, ID requirements to prove you’re old enough, etc.

What? Why? This is a holdover. Our government doesn’t trust women to make decisions about their own health.

In 2012, Obama came out and said he supported the limitation (ignoring the scientific studies) because . . .  he’d want his daughter’s to come to him should they need this.

At this point, I start rambling with how damn condescending and paternalistic that remark and worldview is. As a parent, yes, I understand that sentiment–sort of. I would love for my kids to feel comfortable enough to come to me, to confide in me.

But as a parent, and as someone who survived being a teenager, I realize that even with the most supportive, loving, accepting parents in the world; there’s a fear of telling parents, and also the feeling of “But it’s not really their business.” I also realize not every parent is supportive, and that–it’s not my decision. It’s my daughter’s. It’s her body. Taking the morning-after-pill is responsible on her part, and my knowledge of her doing so is irrelevant.

The sentiment of “It’s not really their business” may seem oh-so-adolescent, but it’s right.

This personal matter is political. The Obama administration has stated it will appeal Judge Korman’s wise decision, thus dragging out an already long court battle.

We aren’t giving in or giving up. President Obama and his administration are sending dangerous messages with this appeal: they don’t trust women, and they don’t respect science.

This is very simple science, and it’s science that helps numerous women from all walks of life.

“You’re disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor… that’s the policy of the Obama administration?” –Judge Korman

But this simple, basic science and medicine has been so wrapped up in politics because it deals with women’s basic bodily autonomy, and that is sadly still a political issue.

Because of this terrible mix, women continue to pay the price.