Commentary Contraception

Back Up Your Birth Control Backup Day

Heather Corinna

You've got rights, for crying out loud. If you're of legal age to get emergency contraception over the counter, you cannot be lawfully refused on the basis of age.

Have you been refused Emergency Contraception? Do you think you might need Emergency Contraception someday? You should download, print and carry a copy of Scarleteen‘s “Pardon me, but hell no” printable that tells you what to do when a pharmacist refuses to dispense absolutely legal EC. 

Yeah, we meant to say that. Boy do we wish we didn’t.

Here’s the spiel: it’s Back Up Your Birth Control Day today, but as you may have heard, or personally experienced, here in the states, we’re still having a lot of trouble with pharmacists refusing over-the-counter Plan B (emergency contraception, the morning-after-pill, or whatever you like to call it), for a whole of reasons, including because of age, even though most of those asking for or about it are of legal age to get it over-the-counter, and without a prescription. We knew that was happening already, but that recent covert study linked there brought it more to light and gave this some more (very needed) attention.

We understand that dealing with being refused something when you’re likely already feeling panicked, and also asking for something pretty private without much, if any privacy, can make dealing with refusals even more hard and maddening than they already are.

Get the facts, direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our daily or weekly digest.


We also know that in that position, sometimes it can be hard to speak up for yourself, especially if you feel judged because of being a young person who had any kind of sex in the first place (or were assaulted and assumptions are being made about you and sex), and a pharmacist is speaking or acting authoritatively, even while they’re talking out of their bottoms because they just don’t know the legal age or they’re knowingly deceiving you because they don’t want to dispense it and are just in the mood for some super-fun lording-power-over-young-people that day.

But you’ve got rights, for crying out loud. If you’re of legal age to get emergency contraception over the counter, you cannot be lawfully refused on the basis of age.

So, we thought we’d make this a bit easier for you to deal with if it happens, and to prepare yourself for, just in case.

Attached at the end of this entry is a PDF file you can print as a handy helper.  It gives you four fold-over copies to cut down the dotted line, then fold in half. One can fit neatly — and, given the blank backside, privately — in your wallet. Since one page prints four, pass the other three (or more!) out to friends who might need it, too.

On each little sheet, the left side shows the law right now around age and the right side says what you can and will do if refused EC. You can use it to read out loud, or even just slide it over to the pharmacist doing the refusing without saying a word, if you like. They may well change their mind about refusing you right there and then once you do that.

But if they still refuse to give it to you based, then you also have all the steps about your next steps right in the palm of your hand. You can find your state pharmacy board and contacts for the given pharmacy’s higher-ups just by using a search engine.

The text of this printable “Pardon me, but hell no,” reads:

Over the counter Plan B, Plan B One Step, and their generic versions are approved to allow OTC availability of these products for consumers 17 years and older. Plan B, Plan B One Step, and their generic versions remain available by prescription only for women 16 years and younger. – U.S. Food and Drug Administration, last updated 12/16/2011, with a number you or the pharmacist could call the FDA with, and that’s 1-888-INFO-FDA.

Besides that text is text that makes clear what you will do if refused, most of which comes from the National Women’s Law Center very helpful page on this issue, and that is:

If I am refused Plan B, I will:
• File a compliant with my state’s pharmacy board to seek sanctions against this pharmacist or pharmacy
• Communicate my story to the press.
• Alert this pharmacy’s corporate headquarters
• Contact my ACLU affiliate ( will allow you to find that affiliate)
• Contact the national Women’s Law Center (which you can do regarding this issue by calling 1-866-PILL-4_US or emailing [email protected])

Don’t forget that one thing you, friends or partners can always do to have BC backup when you need it is to get Plan B in advance when you have the chance to get it: that way you can avoid not just possible refusals, but avoid having to run around if and when the clock is ticking.  If you might ever need any — read: you might ever be at risk of pregnancy — and you don’t have it, next time you’re at a pharmacy and don’t need it can be a very good time to pick a pack up. Also, don’t forget that a lot of state health departments, Planned Parenthood branches and other sexual health clinics often dispense it themselves for cheaper than you can often get it at pharmacies, too.

Evidence-based journalism is the foundation of democracy. Rewire.News, is devoted to evidence-based reporting on reproductive and sexual health, rights and justice and the intersections of race, environmental, immigration, and economic justice.

As a non-profit that doesn't accept advertising or corporate support, we rely on our readers for funding. Please support our fact-based journalism today.

Support Rewire.News

Load More