Monday, July 13, 2009

Availability Does Not Equal Access

The makers of Plan B announced today that the FDA has approved Plan B One-Step, a new version of the emergency contraception pill. Plan B One-Step offers women the choice to help prevent an unintended pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraception failure with just one pill in one dose. The previous version of Plan B was a two pills process, in which the two pills were taken 12 hours apart. The product will be available at U.S. pharmacies within the next month.

While having multiple options of emergency contraception is a great advancement for women many pharmacists refuse to provide these services. Missouri, Illinois and Washington (which now has been overturned) for instance, all have laws that allow pharmacies to refuse to sell Plan B because they consider Plan B's effect on potential pregnancies too similar to abortion. Military women also have difficulty accessing Plan B, because it is not on the list of medications that must be stocked in military pharmacies.

Thankfully, judges and others are wising up to the reproductive freedoms of women and the use of such medicine like Plan B. In the Washington case, the state Pharmacy Board and Ninth Circuit Court ruled that pharmacies could not refuse to sell a lawful product because of moral or religious beliefs. The FDA has also announced that it is expanding over-the-counter access to Plan B One-Step for consumers age 17 and older.

While the ongoing battle of checks and balances rages on, women still face the grim reality that availability does not equal accessibility. Until access to such choices is guaranteed women will still be faced with undue restrictions to their reproductive freedom.

Photo courtesy of blmurch on flikr

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