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October 10th, 2013 By Hannah McCartney | News | Posted In: Health, Health care, Women's Health, Women's Rights, News, Sex, Special Interest Groups

National Reporting Project to Examine Accessibility of Plan B

Crowd-sourced maps will show where and who is illegally limiting emergency contraceptives

gty_plan_b_contraseptive_ll_130430_wgPhoto: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The right to obtain emergency contraception is one that was only recently granted to all women of child-bearing age, marking a huge national victory for women's health rights over conservative political agendas.

But now that's it's available over-the-counter, is it really easy to access?

According to the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project, it depends on where and who you are.

The project, a newly-formed coalition comprising a number of alternative news publications under the umbrella of the Association of Alternative News Media (AAN) and the Media Consortium, part of a larger initiative to "study how independent news organizations can work together to create a collective impact," according to AAN.

The newest component of the project — "
Where Is Your Plan B?" — is a website that uses crowd-sourced data to monitor the availability of emergency contraceptives across the country. 

News outlets collaborating on the project include Austin Chronicle, Bitch Magazine, In These Times, LEO Weekly, Making Contact/National Radio Project, Ms. Magazine, People*Power*Media, Portland Mercury, Public News Service and Santa Fe Reporter.

Once the site gets a little more press, it will start publishing detailed maps documenting which pharmacies are readily providing Plan B, where it might be illegally restricted and where it's available but possibly made more difficult to obtain by roadblocks. For now, you can also find a thorough collection of investigative works from the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project from its participating news outlets, chronicling everything from how Native American women are being actively denied fair access to Plan B and women's access to abortion in New Mexico.

Plan B One-Step was first approved in July 2009 for use without a prescription for women only ages 17 or older; women younger than 17 were previously required to obtain a prescription.

In April, Judge Edward Korman ruled that the age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception were "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." His ruling prompted the FDA to announce Plan B One-Step's availability to women 15 and older without a prescription, which was in June amended to include women of child-bearing age.

Many women's health advocates have expressed concerns about how pharmacies are restricting accessibility to the drug, such as asking for identification even though the FDA doesn't require it or keeping the drug locked up or behind a counter, which could be a daunting barrier for some young girls, making an already unpleasant experience worse.

Commonly known as the "morning-after pill," Plan B is intended to be used when other methods of contraception fail. In extreme cases, it can be a rape victim's only option to prevent becoming pregnant.

The drug, which contains powerful levels of hormones found in some types of birth control pills, is more effective the more quickly it's taken after having unprotected sex, particularly within three days. That means having to obtain a prescription could null the effects of the pill or render it ineffective for a young woman struggling to get a doctor's appointment.

A research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2012 found that of several pharmacies called in five different cities, 20 percent did not have emergency contraception in stock on the same day the patient called.

Visit your local pharmacy and fill out the form here.

Where is Your Plan B? from altweeklies on Vimeo.

 
 
 
 
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