Typically before heading into the office, I make a pit stop to get coffee. Yesterday I had to swing into the pharmacy instead—to get Plan B.
As I walked through the drugstore doors, I recalled the news from the day before: The FDA was considering allowing the emergency “morning after” pill to sell on drugstore shelves, to anyone, without a prescription. I envisioned myself snaking through the aisles and grabbing the box, stashing it in my bag at self-checkout, and resuming my life, waiting for my next period just a little less anxiously. But, as many suspected, only hours after my trip to pick up the controversial contraceptive, I’d learn that Plan B would stay behind the counter, and my daydream scenario would remain a fantasy for many women, not just myself.
I approached the pharmacy near the rear of the store and my pulse quickened as I noticed a man and a woman in white lab coats behind the counter. Please don’t let it be the guy, I silently hoped. I imagined him picturing me having sex and thinking that I’m easy, a slut. Like an obese person wheezing as they ask for their blood pressure medication, while everyone muffles their condescending giggle.
The female pharmacist, a brunette with plastic rim glasses who looks only a few years older than me, approached the pick-up side and I felt calmer, yet still awkwardly muttered, “Uh, I guess” when she asked if I was indeed picking up. I tried to exude confidence, like I had done nothing wrong as I said, “I need Plan B.” I’d been with the same guy for six months and my writing career has been driven by the need to promote a sex-positive society. What was coming over me?
When I asked her for it, she sighed. She requested to see my ID when I reached over the counter greedily. Then she handed me the pastel-colored box. I tried not to read too much into the tone of her voice when she said (sighed?), “No problem,” after I thanked her, though I was sure I heard an inflection of, “I can’t believe my job is to hand this stuff out to whores.”
I popped the pill and reread the materials. Pangs started settling in my stomach in the early afternoon. After lunch, I was exhausted (except maybe that was from the lack of sleep due to staying up worrying). In the late afternoon, I saw that the Secretary of Health and Human Services rejected the request to make Plan B more readily accessible. I fumed.
The current state of this back-up pill keeps women susceptible to potentially judgmental third parties. Plan B staying behind the counter suggests that the behavior that necessitates the need for it should also be hidden away and kept hush-hush. That there is something shameful about needing it and that shame is felt exclusively by women. Even though both me and my partner are at fault for having unsafe sex, all he could do was fork over $50 (I didn’t have that in my account, let alone enough to raise a child), apologize profusely, and take me seriously when I told him, “This cannot happen again.” I had to show the pharmacist my ID. I had to look her in the eye and not feel apologetic about my sexuality. I had to take the pill and deal with any of the physical side effects.
I recognize the main issue for many detractors: teen access. But a pill that helps fewer young adults to qualify for “Teen Mom” is far from the worst thing teens could abuse at drugstores. I went through a stage when I was 15 where I would constantly trip balls on cough medicine—something easier to get than an oral contraceptive that helps women not have a child. Should we just be locking everything with a possible latent side effect away from 16 year olds, creating an additional hurdle for the rest of womankind as a result?