EC: The Back-Up I Needed

Jessica Perl

Over-the-counter access to emergency contraception enabled me to access the drug when I most needed it.

I am a 23-year-old female and have used emergency contraception twice in my life. The first
time was when I was a freshman in college – I had stupidly slept with a guy
without a condom, and while he had pulled out, I was still nervous that I could
get pregnant. At that time EC wasn’t available over the counter, so I knew I
had to go to Planned Parenthood. I deliberated back and forth, knowing that I
should go, but not wanting to because of the time it would take to get there,
the time I would have to wait, the money I would have to spend, etc.
Ultimately, I decided the risks of not going outweighed the inconvenience of
rearranging my schedule a bit. I went by myself and was definitely nervous,
even a little ashamed, at going inside the Planned Parenthood. But the
experience I had there was excellent. There were a number of other girls there
for the same reason I was, and we were taken in as a group (those that didn’t
mind doing it all together – we were given the option to meet with the nurse privately). She talked a bit about safe sex and prevention methods, but not in a
patronizing or lecturing manner. I felt that she was easy to relate to and
passed no judgment. After she spoke for a bit, she handed out prescriptions for
EC to all of us, and we were on our way.

The second time was a little less than a year ago on Memorial Day. I
had had sex the night before, and when I went to take my birth control that
morning, I saw that I had actually missed two pills in a row, instead of the
one I knew I had forgotten to take. After mentally kicking myself really hard,
I started to freak out: "It’s a holiday; is Planned Parenthood even going to be
open?" Then, I vaguely remembered reading that EC was now available over the
counter (I still am not sure where I had heard this). I called CVS, and it was
confirmed – EC was available over the counter! I immediately went to retrieve
it. Again, I had a good experience. The pharmacist, incidentally, a man, was
totally cool and gave me no problems (though I do think I was asked for my
ID).  Money again was a concern of mine, but I decided it would be better to be
safe than sorry (thankfully, I had the funds to allow me to purchase it).

I actually can’t remember where I first learned about EC. A health
class, perhaps? Commercials? It was common knowledge that it existed among me
and my friends at the time. When I first used it, though, I’m pretty sure I
thought I only had 72 hours to take it. Between that time and the second time I
used EC, I learned that there was the bigger window of 5 days in which you had
the opportunity to take it.

What was not and is not publicized enough is that EC is available over
the counter. Since I had gotten it over the counter myself, I have informed a
number of people who had no clue of it’s much easier accessibility (most
recently including my 20 year old cousin, who was in absolute distress over a
broken condom and who didn’t want to pay a visit to the doctor. She was
relieved, to say the least, to learn a simple trip to the pharmacy would solve
her problems.)

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