by Daisy Young, Repro Fund NH intern
During my internship with the Reproductive Freedom Fund, I helped to launch our free Plan B initiative. Through this work, we’re eliminating barriers to accessing affordable emergency contraceptive pills, commonly known by the popular brand name Plan B, in New Hampshire. Plan B is used to prevent or reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex. There are several common brands of Plan B: Plan B One-Step, Take Action, My Way, Option 2, Preventenza, AfterPill, My Choice, Aftera, Contra, and others. Plan B contains 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel, which is a synthetic progestin that works to stop the implantation. Plan B works in 3 ways:
- Temporarily stops ovulation
- Prevents fertilization
- Prevents fertilized egg from attaching to uterus
As part of the initiative, I developed a Plan B zine, titled “Let’s Talk About… Emergency Contraceptive Pills in NH.” Since our organization is offering free medicine, we felt it was important to educate our communities on how to properly use it as well. Through research, design, and hours of folding—with some paper cuts in between—I learned a lot about the medicine I always knew as just “the morning after pill.”
Making Plan B affordable and accessible is a crucial aspect of harm reduction in our fight for reproductive rights. Aside from the $50 price tag—a financial obstacle for many—there is also a stigma attached to purchasing emergency contraceptives pills.
In August of 2013, the FDA decided to make Plan B available to all, regardless of age or gender, or even prescription status. For that reason, Plan B is available over-the-counter (OTC) at most drugstores and pharmacies. With that decision in mind, Plan B should be stocked on pharmacy shelves, but often it is locked behind the counter or in a glass case, which forces customers to ask for assistance. Having to ask store workers for support to access the pill can be intimidating and awkward. Through offering free Plan B with trusted organizations with like-minded missions, we hope to ease affordability, as well as eliminating anxiety around purchasing the pill.
A second aspect of this stigma is the connotation “abortion pill,” which is used to reference the pill. Plan B is not abortion-inducing, although there are pills which do so. Plan B prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation, and reduces your chance of pregnancy by 75-89% if taken within three days of unprotected sex. The sooner the pill is taken, the more effective it works. However, Plan B can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. There are several seasons Plan B may be taken:
- condom came off, broke, or was expired
- no birth control was used
- diaphragm slipped out of place
- missed 2-3 routine birth control pills in a row
- forced to have unprotected sex
- any other reason birth control may not have worked
One thing I learned that I wish was talked about more is that Plan B can perform less effectively for those weighing over 165 lbs. In that case, individuals can speak with their provider about getting a prescription for Ella, an emergency contraceptive with a higher weight limit that’s effective up to five days after sex. Other side effects are rare, however, some people experience headaches, breast tenderness, spotting, and nausea after taking it. Sometimes your next cycle may be delayed. If you throw up within two hours of taking Plan B, the pill may not work. In this case, call your provider to see if you should repeat the dose.
With the future of our reproductive justice in question, we begin to consider the plethora of contraceptive options we have to fall back on. For many, Plan B is a crucial safety net, a relatively affordable option to prevent pregnancy. One in nine people aged 15-44 reported using an emergency contraceptive at least once, with that number increasing to nearly 25% for people aged 20-24. While $50 spent on an emergency contraceptive pill may be reasonable for some, that price tag stands as a barrier for many.
For that reason, we are working to ease this barrier for New Hampshire. The makers of Plan B have given us thousands of pills to distribute for free across the granite state. Our list of partners is diverse and expanding, as you can see here on our map which features the over 20 locations we have stocked. We looked to partner with a variety of organizations, from restaurants, to thrift stores, to health centers, and much more. We are still looking to gain traction in several areas such as Nashua, Milford, Exeter, Berlin, and the Lakes Region. If you or any group you know is interested, please email us at email@example.com.