May 09
Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.


Editor’s Pick
MARCH 23, 2009 7:46PM

It's About F**king Time

Rate: 50 Flag

In 2005, incensed that the FDA, which, at the time, was so under the thumb of the woman-hating, sex-hating, body-hating, science-hating Bush administration that it made a decision that Plan B contraception would not be available at pharmacies to those under the age of 18, AND, really pissed off that there were pharmacists who were claiming that their morals didn't allow them to dispense the drugs,  I wrote the following, in which I offered to serve as a drug mule for underage girls:

The FDA got it half-right this morning. Plan B contraception has been cleared for over the counter dispensation, but only if you are over the age of 18. Younger than 18? You're shit outta luck, unless you're willing to go to the doctor's office and get a prescription yourself. How you're supposed to do that without your parent's knowledge, since I'm assuming they'll get the insurance bills, is beyond me. If you're lucky, there will be a Planned Parenthood office in your town. But again, that will require luck.

So, here's the deal. I am making a pledge, which I fully intend to keep. If you need Plan B contraception, and you contact me, I will go to my local pharmacy and get it for you. Your parents don't have to know.

The CWFA will likely lobby Congress for a bill that will make my activities illegal, but I do not give a rat's ass for what the CWFA thinks of me.

This is an act of civil disobedience.

I am a whore. Or at least, that's what I think I'm supposed to accept these days. You see, I've used Plan B contraception--twice--because, for various reasons, I didn't use birth control while I was having sex, and because, at 41, I do not want to get pregnant again, I resorted to Plan B. Pharmacists who want to dispense shame would think of me as a whore.

The pharmacists who refuse to dispense the medication, even with a doctor's prescription, claim to be doing so because it's against their morals to do so. They claim they're saving fetuses. But really? I think they're punishing women who have sex. Again.

Rather than fight them on this, allow them to cast shame on me for being sexually active and single, I'm just going to come out and say it. I am a whore. I don't want to get pregnant. I have the wherewithall to fight you, but many, many women--those who feel shame about having sex in this culture don't have the resources to fight you. And so I'm fighting this on their behalf.

Acquiring Plan B contraception is not as easy as it is made out to be. Several months ago, I started dating a man, things progressed quickly one hot, lazy summer afternoon, and we had sex. The next morning, I woke up, counted days, felt the familiar twinge in my side, and realized I was ovulating. Plan B seemed like a damned good idea. I called my doctor's office. I asked the receptionist to have one of the docs phone in a prescription for Plan B. "We don't do that," she said, in an extremely tight voice. I could hear the disapproval dripping from her voice. I called Planned Parenthood, got an appointment for that morning. I had to pay a full appointment fee and then pay for medication. Not cheap. But I did it. And, I'm delighted to say, did not get pregnant that month.

A few weeks later, I was in to see my doctor for my regular check-up. I asked her why they wouldn't phone in Plan B contraception prescriptions. "But we do," she said. I told her what happened. It seems the receptionist had taken it upon herself to deny me Plan B. I have a feeling that said receptionist was going to be in big trouble after I left.

A few months after that, I had cause to use Plan B again. This time, my doctor's office called the prescription in to my local pharmacy and I picked it up later that day. The pharmacist, who dispenses all of my pills, handed me the drugs with no hassles or lectures, simply asked me if I had any questions. What a relief.

Why am I telling you all of this? For several reasons.

First. Even for me, acquiring Plan B contraception the first time turned out to be a hassle and fairly expensive. If I had been in different circumstances, I may have given up before I got the medication, and then, voila, a few weeks later, may have found myself facing an unwanted pregnancy.

Second. It doesn't really matter how many pharmacists are, in fact, refusing to dispense the medication. The fact that the ones who are refusing are garnering so much attention means that any woman who gets Plan B is going to have to worry that she's going to get the pharmacist who's going to refuse.

In the late 19th century, the Comstock laws made it a federal offense for certain information to cross state lines. In other words, magazines and mail that contained information about birth control was not allowed to circulate. Even though many of the methods of birth control we have now--condoms, diaphragms, and others--were available, the information that they existed could not circulate freely in the culture. Women often didn't know that they had options.

Increasingly, it's not that birth control is not available, it's that the knowledge that it's available is being repressed. If you live in a small town and need Plan B, are you going to know where you can go if your local pharmacist decides not to dispense your prescription? How can we help these women?

Finally, the pharmacist's job is not to dispense shame. I don't know what the figures are for men who've attempted to have their Viagra prescriptions filled and been denied. I can't imagine that there's been a lot of these cases. Because, when it all comes down to it, it's still okay for men to have sex. But, because I have sex, and I want access to birth control after the fact, I'm a whore.

I think I'm going to have that embroidered on a pillow.

Needless to say, even among my liberal posters, my plan to start a Plan B underground was seen as usurping a parent's right to be involved in their child's sexual health decisions. But you know what? After your child becomes sexually active, you don't get to be a part of that unless your child asks you to. I'm sorry to say, but that's the way it works. Either your kid trusts you enough to talk to you about sex, or they don't. And if they don't, well tough shit for you. 

Today, a judge finally declared that, at least in terms of 17-year olds, the decision to limit Plan B contraception to those over 18 was a "political decision." 

"These political considerations, delays, and implausible justifications for decision-making are not the only evidence of a lack of good faith and reasoned decision-making," Korman said. "Indeed, the record is clear that the FDA's course of conduct regarding Plan B departed in significant ways from the agency's normal procedures regarding similar applications to switch a drug product from prescription to non-prescription use."

See? This is why some of us are so damned pissed off about the way women are treated. You can buy cold medicine that may screw up your heartbeat, you can buy Tylenol and Ibuprofen, which in overdoses can be fatal, but be a 17-year old who just had sex and thinks, "I don't want to get pregnant," and the Bush administration decided you should remain screwed. 

So, the question is, will the drug now be available over the counter to younger women?

You know the social conservatives "decried" the decision. Do you want to know why? The social conservatives argue that girls under the age of 18 could be forced to take Plan B contraception by those who are sexually abusing them. 

I want you to think about that for a moment. They want to deny 14-year old incest victims from obtaining Plan B because it might be coerced, but, should a 14-year old find herself pregnant because she's been raped, well, that's just dandy. Go ahead and have the baby. That's what God would want. 

So, I'm repeating my promise of 2005. If you are under the age of 17, and you need Plan B contraception, send me a PM, and I will make sure that you get it.


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You know, I know that this is not something that everyone is going to be in agreement on. But I feel so strongly about it, I must speak in favor of sexually active teens being able to get hold of Plan B. Period.
I am doing back flips because you wrote this post! Thank you! Thank you! Years ago, back in the 80's I wrote a piece for our local newspaper about being a pro-choice Catholic. A simple opinion in that church can make you pro-choice. They let men who have vasectomies take communion but God forbid, you think the protestant woman down the street has a right to an abortion in a safe environment. I got death threats... they also threatened to meet my daughter when she got off of her school bus and kill her. Gotta love Right to Life people. Before abortion was legal in this country, I had two friends almost die from getting their abortions in Mexico and Puerto Rico. They came back here and almost bled to death. I do not know why young women are not fighting this. They have no idea what we went through in the 60s and 70s for them and for ourselves. Here, the local rape crisis clinic is in a Catholic hospital. If you want the morning-after-pill, after you have been raped, you get to walk across the street to the Methodist hospital.
Jesus F#@!*ing Christ!!!
I would do the same, FLW, but I fear I am too old for a pharmacist to believe that I might need it... even though I'm still taking the Pill. For other reasons.

I don't know what the figures are for men who've attempted to have their Viagra prescriptions filled and been denied... (...and what about insurance companies that cover drugs for ED, but not for contraception? Hardly a fair contest in my book.)

I've posted and commented on this particularly odious bit of hypocrisy many, many times-- and assumed each time that it never happens. Never has anyone contradicted my post or comment and said that they or anyone they knew had been denied Viagra by a pharmacist with an officious conscience.

If a PharmD does not want to dispense legally prescribed and/or OTC drugs, perhaps it's time to consider another line of work. One with less scope for causing actual harm.
I know that it is tough as parents to allow our children to make decisions that we may think they're too young to make. But I'd much rather that my child had access to Plan B than have to deal with a pregnant teenager.
I cannot disclose my own children's decisions, because I do not want to violate their privacy.
This is the first time I have encountered anyone offering to obtain Plan B for another who may not be able to obtain it. Your offer shows a very special concern for others and I commend you for it!
As someone who got pregnant for the first time at 17, I'm in total agreement. I'm about 10 years older than you, so I remember when the pendulum swung far back from the attitudes of the GWB years, when Planned Parenthood was humming with customers, not protestors. Now it seems birth control and education have gotten a bad reputation and the solutions people are proposing are abstinence and continuing with an unplanned pregnancy. It's way crazier than what you are suggesting.

And MAWB, yeah where is the love from the pro-lifers? There is none. It's all about telling people how to live.
I wonder if what I'm doing is considered illegal? Fuck it. I don't care. Thanks to all who have responded so positively. At least in this area, perhaps we're talking about a revolution.
I'm with you. I'll help you run the underground.

Nothing is worse than being teenaged and pregnant... NOTHING.
I just have to sigh a big one...the hypocrisy is so thick it is tough to breathe.

Excellent post, I would have marched for this right...still would come to think of it. Damn shame to think it is even necessary in 2009.
I remember this post. You'll get no argument out of me.
I forget what the dosage was but one memorable night the birth control failed. A girlfriend had many packs of the pill on hand as she had decided to get knocked up (sadly didn't work) and my RN NurseMidwife friend told me what the dosage should be. Viola.

I applaud FLW! I feel so badly for women in so many states where abortion may be legal but the clinics are so rare it might as well be illegal. Or how about the new law in SC (I think its SC), where they have a mandatory waiting period. Some poor woman who might have traveled hours to get an abortion now has to find a place to stay overnight so she can "think it over!" Smoke is coming out my ears.
Let's hear it for direct action! You go, girl!

This is, of course, all on a par with abstinence-only sex ed, denial of family planning funding, health insurers covering Viagra but not birth control pills, etc., etc. There appears to be no limit to the hypocrisy and meanness of those who believe that women's only proper role in life is to bear babies, regardless of the circumstances under which they were conceived.
I am totally with you on this one. (And on others too, I would guess.) I used Planned Parenthood when I was young and sexually active, and was so thankful for it. Thank god my friends knew about it, because my parents would never know or have told me. Plan B is a miracle, but still is not easy. It should be available to every girl/woman who has a reason to need it.
This is sort of timely! Just yesterday I was out with 3 friends to head to Babeland ( - NSFW). The reason was that one of my friends is still a virgin (I'm literally old enough to be her mother) and because she grew up in such a strict religious community, she is scared to have sex. But she really wants to. We told her she needed to start off with a surrogate first so we figure that hurdle is crossed. She's also so afraid of getting pregnant and didn't even know about Plan B so after being sure she is comfortable with the "no sex without a condom" rule, we told her about Plan B. My other friend has had to use it before when the condom broke. If my friend had not been able to obtain Plan B, she'd have been pregnant with a baby possessing a likely deadly genetic defect which her boyfriend carried. So, I greatly support your offer and your stance for this reason and many more.

And on a more personal note (and slightly off topic) I have recently had to come to grips with the fact that the D & E procedure I have to undergo Wednesday morning to get rid of an unsuccessful pregnancy would be made illegal if the pro-lifers had their way. The irony there is that we've been trying for a year and a half to get pregnant and this was our third cycle of fertility drugs.
Count me in. When will women be allowed to be fully enfranchised members of society, accepted as reasoning and reasonable human beings who can make a decision about themselves without some super-patriarch advising them? My anger and activism continues.
i would like to rate this with all my fingers and toes.
Isn't Plan B basically a bigger does of BC pills? Which teenagers can and do get without parental permission?
Oh yeah, my brother & wife , Fundamentalists, refused to allow their two daughters to take sex education in high school. One got pregnant her first semester of junior college, and her one-year older sister who was a bit on the heavy side ended up having a baby two weeks after they figured out SHE was pregnant, too. Short gestation period. The one of the babies remains fatherless, and with a mother who is struggling, although my brother & wife have helped a lot. The other married a man my age, but seems to be doing well enough. The kids are in second grade now, I think. Sad.
I'm sending you hugs and sympathy. I'm sorry you had to go through that. hang in there.
A friend of mine, who is about 10 years younger than I am, but still well past the age when she'd want to have another child, told me that her doctor suggested getting Plan B in advance so that she would already have it on hand... just in case. I remember thinking how foresighted her doctor was. Another woman, of course.

I suppose that might be another way to help out any young women in need... get it in advance, if you can.
Nice job of demonstratively making a much needed point. and action is always the best teacher for all of us. Commendable.
Your post reminded me of something else that I read about quite awhile ago... Jane: an underground network of women who learned to provide safe abortions for women who needed them. When abortions were still illegal. Before they became legal. And then began to become illegal again... or just plain impossible to obtain.

Talk about taking action...
I'm there with you, sista! I sometimes found myself writing prescriptions for young girls at the pharmacy counter before Plan B was available OTC. I'd overhear them whispering to the pharmacist trying to get morning-after pills and s/he would tell them that they needed a prescription. They'd look so devastated.

I'd take them aside, tell them that I was a doctor (a teendoc who dispensed both Plan B and Preven in my office, in fact), get a little health history and go back to the pharmacist telling him/her that I'm writing the script for this young woman. Sure it was risky (more so with Preven than Plan B) but it was something I also felt strongly about.

And for those who are asking about Plan B and whether it is high dose birth control pills: not exactly. The beauty of Plan B over Preven is that Plan B is just progesterone and not estrogen and progesterone like in the regular pill. The estrogen is what gives you the nausea that would happen with Preven. Plan B is much better tolerated and much safer since progesterone does not cause nearly the health concerns that estrogen has the potential to do. It really should be over the counter.
SilkStone: Yep it is. If you are taking the regular pill (like Ortho Tri Cyclen, NOT the low dose) then all you is take two of the white ones, just like Plan B.

FLW, Oh hell yeah! Here in CA you can get it without an Rx but you still have deal with the Pharamicist, I don't understand why its not on the same shelf with the condoms. I have two packs of it in my bathroom,(not for me) but for any friends, neighbors who might find themselves in a jam.

One of the arguments I've heard against teens getting it is that it will encourage them to screw around without using protection, I call Bullshit: Condoms DO break, even used correctly . . .I know, its happened to us . . more than once, but they still better then nothing. All Plan B is, is just a safety net, Period.

EVERYONE should have access.

fingerlakes, we live next to people who raise miniature show donkeys. Yes, people in my state actually compete over who has the best miniature ass, but that is a topic for another time. My point is this: a few years ago, my young daughter walked over to the neighbor's land to pet one of the donkeys, accidentally left the gate open, and a randy "Jack" got in there and had his way with the "Ginny," which was considered underage and not developmentally ready to carry a pregnancy.

The neighbors figured out what had happened, and since our daughter had basically been trespassing, asked us to pay the bill for the veterinarian who came out and gave the Ginny A PILL TO KEEP HER FROM CONCEIVING. Yes, you heard right: while Plan B contraception was denied to young women, it was readily available for the asses next door.

You f**king rock my socks!
You rock, FLW. I am so on your side, and I will offer that same service to all you Colorado girls.

Social conservatives are disgusting in their consistent woman-hating.
I can't believe we still have to worry about this today. Sometimes I feel like we take 3 steps backwards ... teens, perhaps more than anyone, need access. Agreed. Rated. Thanks for stepping up, speaking out. As always.
Will you do it even for women under 32?

I do agree with your post.
I feel like I'm living in lala liberal land! I worked in a reproductive health clinic that dispensed Plan B three years ago - it's been OTC here for two years? I live in Massachusetts, so there you go.

When I was dispensing it, after a counseling period of five minutes, the primary concern was: how long since intercourse. Because it's not effective next week. It's efficacy is 72 hour after the last intercourse, and that is a risky timeline.
Women, especially young women, will try anything to not be pregnant when they do not want to be pregnant - especailly when birth control fails (broken condoms being a big issue.)
Now it's OTC, and I advise young women - and all women - to stock up and keep it in the medicine cabinet. Next to the Tylenol and the Nyquil.

I can buy it in bulk and ship it to the warrior women who are willing to dispense through compassion. Let me know!

One thing I encountered, which I find is still common, is a confusion betwen Plan B and RU-486, the abortaficent pill(s). RU-486 got FDA approval around the same time that Plan B was gaining notice as "the morning after pill".
People confuse them all the time, even here in la la liberal land.
Great post and comments. Thumbs up to all these strong voices. It is shocking to see that so many moral judgements still cloud women's repruductive health concerns.
Right on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Is it wrong for a person of my gender to say that if a person who can't obtain plan b due to age here in So Il needs help I'll do it. I have two daughters.
Plan B has been OTC for a while now, but only if you're over 18. And then the judge yesterday said 17. My argument is it should be OTC, period. And, I also think that if you're a pharmacist who refuses to fill prescriptions for drugs because you object to them morally? You need to find another job. (Just to clarify some points)
If we do want to try to set up a network, please contact me via PM. We can at least identify what states we live in; that way if someone needs Plan B, we can figure out who is closest in terms of mail, etc. I used to keep b.c. pills in my house for this emergency, but since my hysterectomy, don't have them in my house anymore. But there's nothing to prevent me from getting the pills should the need arise for someone else.
I am familiar with the JANE network. What amazing work they did.

I just want to thank you all for your amazingly positive response. I think we rock. And Teendoc! Wow!
maybe they can dispense it in elementary schools. or make really cool plan b dispensers like pez. maybe the ice cream man can sell it. mother's can call down to their daughters...."don’t forget your plan b." shakespeare said it first, to be or not to be? ain't life grand...i mean dead embryos. yeah that's it, ain't dead embryos are grand.
MJ GOTT--you know what's even cooler? dead moms. why don't you look up the statistics on maternal mortality around the world and celebrate that fact? and dude, let's REPEAT
FLW, many males have thought for many years that their sperm, and their sperm delivery system was sacred. Why should you expect this troll to think any differently?
just a little sarcasm to start the day that's all
Completly agree. Wonderful!
Excellent post. This whole contraception debate is a religious one and it really irritates me. I don't try to force my beliefs on anyone, and I don't like having their beliefs forced on me. If you believe that "every sperm is sacred", wonderful - don't use Plan B. Furthermore, if you're going to bring religion into the debate, please include the bits about taking care of the poor and those in need. You're missing the most important parts of the message if your only concern for a child is when it is in utero.
MJ GOTT: Sarcasm not at all appreciated in this discussion.

I hate it when people start talking about MAP causing abortion. It is so ignorant. As an infertility vet I can throw a quick question back at those who say such foolishness. What do reproductive endocrinologists give to women to stabilize early pregnancy? Yeah, progesterone. Clearly not an abortifacent.

And to those who might think that Plan B might be too dangerous for teens to have? Do you know what the most dangerous drug is in the hands of the teens I've seen? Tylenol. Yep. Very commonly reached for when kids are upset and want to take a handful of pills. This lovely little drug has the ability to trash your liver. Not so good. Plan B has no such risks associated with it.
I'm late to the party, but I wanted you to know that I'm 100% with you on this subject. 100%!!!
Totally with you! Rated
You go girl! And let's never ever forget how many freedoms were taken from us by the Bush administration and its terrorist minions.
I too am late to this discussion but am SOOO with you. What a great post. Been preaching this for a long time and here in MO, there are a lot of people against it. I too (a nurse of 32 years) would give it to those who can't get it or are too intimidated by judgemental pharms (or receptionists!) Enthusiastically rated.
There are few words to shout my agreement. So thank you for saying what so many of us are thinking. Sally'sSisterJudy
Looks like you beat the New York Times:
If I had to vote for 10 OS posters who would become "official" columnists here, you would be one of them. You choose topics so well.

With 3 daughters I worry about this.
Brave girl. It probably is illegal so be very, very careful. What an amazing offer you've extended, and so sad that anyone has to go to these lengths to get these unfortunate girls the help they need. I agree with you on principle, but if someone does take you up on your offer, it might be wise to talk to them about the decision. Protect yourself from people who might want to "set you up", or take advantage of you.
go Lorraine.
I had to use Plan B once, it required a trip to one of 2 doctors (actually she was a nurse practitioner) that were willing to give it at the time.