Editor’s Note: We at POPSUGAR recognize that people of many genders and identities have vaginas and uteruses, not just those who are women. For this particular story, we interviewed experts who generally referred to people with vaginas and uteruses as women.
Reproductive rights are undeniably under attack. The most recent news of the Supreme Court’s leaked plans to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade has sparked panic in the U.S., where an estimated 24 states would likely ban abortion if Roe fell, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. This news wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but rather comes after a series of legislative moves making it clear that Americans’ right to abortion is no longer guaranteed. States including Oklahoma, Arizona, and Texas, for example, have all introduced legislation aimed at tightening restrictions on access to abortion in the last year.
In light of the fact that Roe v. Wade may be overturned in the next few months, some people are wondering whether it’s wise to stock up on the morning-after pill in case their access to abortion becomes limited — or in case access to birth control or emergency contraception or is the next to come under fire. (As of April 2022, six states explicitly allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives, including emergency contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute.)
“It’s unlikely that birth control or the morning-after pill will be banned from any state in the US,” says Heather Irobunda, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn in New York City. “However, there may be restrictions in certain states that may make it difficult for [people] to obtain them.” So, should you be taking steps to ensure you’re covered?
Should You Stock Up On Emergency Contraception?
With so much uncertainty surrounding reproductive and abortion rights, there’s been buzz about stockpiling Plan B or other emergency contraception (which, for the record, is not the same thing as an abortion pill).
While it isn’t the only form of emergency contraception, Plan B is one of the most accessible. It and other progestin-only morning-after pills are available over the counter without a prescription. Anyone at any age can buy these pills, without a parent’s consent, according to Planned Parenthood, and you can even purchase them online through telehealth apps (such as Nurx or Wisp) or on sites like After Pill or even Amazon. It can be taken up to five days after having sex that could result in pregnancy.
The other emergency contraception option, a ulipristal acetate pill under the brand name Ella, requires a prescription; however, you can also get it online and shipped to you with a quick medical consultation from Nurx or PRJKT RUBY. Like Plan B, it’s also possible to purchase Ella ahead of time and hold onto it just in case, according to Planned Parenthood.
Because all morning-after pills are more effective the sooner you take them, it’s not a bad idea to keep some on hand. “One way to take control of your health decisions can be stocking up on essentials so you can act quickly and move forward with confidence,” says Jamie Norwood, co-founder of Stix, a direct-to-consumer brand of fertility and vaginal health products. Taking emergency contraception can help offer peace of mind in case your contraceptive method fails (for example, if a condom breaks) or if you’re worried about pregnancy despite using another form of birth control. After all, birth control pills, for example, are still only 91 percent effective at preventing pregnancy (with typical use), according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
That said, it’s probably not necessary to run to the pharmacy to stock up on Plan B right now. Abortion is still legal (as the Supreme Court decision isn’t final yet), and any future restrictions on contraception won’t take effect immediately, Dr. Irobunda says. She recommends waiting to see how the laws may change before assessing whether it’s worth buying the morning-after pill in bulk.
Activists are also pointing out that panic buying emergency contraceptives in bulk to keep on hand just in case could keep people from accessing it who need it right now.
Please do NOT order Plan B tonight unless you have an actual plan to distribute it in your community, or we’ll have a million doses expiring in medicine cabinets while folks who need it can’t get it, because it’s sold out.
— Amy Jo Cousins (@_AJCousins) May 3, 2022
Does the Morning-After Pill Expire?
In terms of safety, it’s perfectly fine to pick up the morning-after pill and keep it at home for a while, as long as you don’t take any expired products, Dr. Irobunda says. If the morning-after pill is expired, it will be less effective and may not successfully prevent pregnancy, Dr. Irobunda explains. Emergency contraception can be good for up to five years, but according to Nurx, the expiration date is based on the manufacturer date, not the date the pill was purchased — so make sure to check the expiration date, or ask a pharmacist or physician if you’re concerned that the pill may be expired.
“When such an important issue as a conception is involved, I would recommend strictly following the expiration-date advisories,” says Felice Gersh, MD, ob-gyn, author, and founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine. Because of this, she suggests keeping only three or four packs of the pill at a time — you don’t want to buy so many that you’re unlikely to use them before they expire. (And remember: the morning-after pill should only be taken in case of emergency, anyway.)
Where to Get Emergency Contraception
Nonprescription emergency contraception is available at many local pharmacies and generally costs $40 to $50, depending on where you buy it. And if you can’t get the morning-after pill close to home, there are other options.
“[Mail-order] services make it easier for women from all over the US, especially in areas where it may be more difficult to get [the morning-after pill], to have access to it,” Dr. Irobunda says. She personally recommends Bedsider (an online birth control support resource that can help you weigh your options and find a provider or mail-order service) and Nurx (a mail-order pharmacy that provides birth control, Plan B, and other reproductive health services).
If you’re past the window where emergency contraception is an option, Plan C can help you figure out your abortion options and get support.
—Additional reporting by Lauren Mazzo