In the U.S., Plan B emergency contraception is available over-the-counter only for women 17 and older. This is in no small part due to America’s long-standing, confused, Puritan relationship with sexuality. Sill, that means Plan B is available to all adult women, right?
Wrong. Oh, certainly, if you’re 17 or older, you can buy Plan B. But only if you can find someone to sell it to you. If you don’t happen to have your ID handy, you could be out of luck, even if you’re 28 years older than you have to be to purchase it.
Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, writes of her own experience trying to buy Plan B at a local Rite-Aid:
In a fit of doing the right thing for the youth of America we found ourselves at Rite Aid stocking up on condoms, lube (because that’s what the CDC recommends to use with condoms to reduce the risk of breakage, also not taught in sex ed!), and Plan B, a veritable safe sex kit for the hallway closet beside the extra toothbrushes and toilet paper. My boyfriend and I were giggling a little, shouting things like, “Got the magnum sized condoms, honey.” And, “Does that lube we like come in a gallon size?”
When it was our turn at the pharmacy window we headed up, laden with the goodies, and I asked, “Plan B, the generic please.”
“I need to see your ID.”
Well, we’d just come form the gym and I wasn’t driving so I had cash and a credit card, but no ID. And while I like to think that I look younger than my stated age, there is no way in hell I look like a 16 year old, you know what I mean?
I made my case. All 45 years.
Didn’t matter, no ID no Plan B.
Of course, an ID is not a legal requirement for the sale of Plan B, but because the item has an age restriction, stores will card for it. Some stores will put difficult or draconian rules into effect in order to protect themselves from liability, but these rules also make it difficult for younger women to get emergency contraception after a failure to use contraception, a failure of contraceptive methods, or a sexual assault.
For Dr. Gunter, it wasn’t an emergency; she was buying the pill for an “emergency kit,” not for her on personal use. For a woman facing the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy, however, any delay could be critical.
As Robin Marty of RH Reality Check writes, “The lack of an ID isn’t just an issue for those who simply forgot to bring one along. For many women who are poor and don’t own cars, a legal ID card may not be something they have, because of the cost and the lack of necessity.”
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