With abortion no longer protected as a constitutional right, people across the United States are wondering how the decision could affect the availability of over-the-counter emergency contraception, such as Plan B pills, at their local pharmacies.
In Kentucky, a “trigger law” went into effect, banning abortion procedures within the state, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (however, a judge placed a temporary block on the trigger law Thursday that’s in effect for one week). The law does not ban contraceptives that “prevent pregnancy or before a pregnancy can be determined through conventional medical testing,” like Plan B, according to a directive issued by the Kentucky attorney general’s office.
Following the Roe decision, retail stores like Walmart and Rite-Aid limited emergency contraceptive purchases to ensure that supply stays stable enough to meet the demand, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Walgreens has paused deliveries but has not set any quantity limits.
Here’s what PlanB is used for and what availability is like at some of Lexington’s pharmacies.
What is Plan B?
Plan B is a one-step, emergency contraceptive pill that is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or failed birth control method. It is commonly known as the “morning-after pill” and works by temporarily delaying ovulation, thus preventing pregnancy.
According to Plan B’s website, it is not an abortion pill and will not affect an existing pregnancy.
Katie Rodihan, communications director at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said it is critical for people everywhere to have access to emergency contraception, especially for those living in states where abortion is banned like Kentucky.
“All kinds of things happen that you can’t plan for even if you are on birth control or using some form of birth control,” Rodihan said. “There are always times when it may not work or there might have been an issue, and so having that backup emergency contraception to take after you have intercourse is really important to help people control whether or not they get pregnant.”
Rodihan said Planned Parenthood encourages people to make emergency contraception appointments at Planned Parenthood clinics. She said the appointments are quick, easy and can be done via telemedicine.
“We can then prescribe them prescription forms of emergency contraception that are not experiencing the same supply issues that their over-the-counter counterparts are having right now,” Rodihan said, referencing Rite Aid and Amazon limits.
Rodihan noted that there are people who emergency contraception pills will not work for, as there are weight limits and other potential obstacles.
Women who are outside the weight range for Plan B can go to a Planned Parenthood clinic and have a copper IUD inserted, Rodihan said.
A copper IUD contains no hormones and prevents pregnancy for up to 10 years, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Are pharmacies in Lexington being impacted?
The owner of The Pharmacy Shop on 450 A Southland Drive in Lexington, Dr. Clarence F. Sullivan III, said he did not expect any changes at his store in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.
The owner added that “not one” of his customers had brought up Plan B or the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
He said his customers seemed to have other issues on their mind, like gas prices and inflation.
He added that he does not anticipate any effect of the Supreme Court’s decision on pharmacies’ ability to sell over-the-counter emergency contraception such as Plan-B.
“We’re really reaching when we say we’re going to abolish contraception,” he said. “I think those are scare tactics.”
The Pharmacy Shop currently has Plan B in stock behind the counter.
Hunter Stewart, owner of Eastland Pharmacy on 1301 Winchester Road, said he hasn’t seen any immediate changes in business, but expects to in the coming weeks. He keeps emergency contraceptives in stock behind the counter.
“I anticipate there being a difference coming soon,” Stewart said. “I’m sure it will increase contraceptive use.”
Stewart also said the decision may cause a “gray area” in what can be considered an abortion pill.
“I anticipate a lot of difficult decisions having to be made both with potential families and with women in general,” he said. “On our side... we’re just making sure we’re staying within the law but also helping patients the best we can.”
Wheeler’s Pharmacy on 336 Romany Rd. had Plan B in stock, but did not speak to Herald-Leader reporters when they visited the store Tuesday.
The CVS located in Target on 500 S Upper Street, Suite 110 was fully stocked with Plan B, Take Action and condoms. Both the Plan B and Take Action emergency contraception are in plastic containers that have to be unlocked by retail staff.
The Walgreens on 878 E High Street had one Plan B on the shelf in addition to three Take Action kits when reporters visited the store on Tuesday afternoon.