Harris Teeter, #Don’tHidePlanB

By: Kristen Sands ’18

We all know and love Anthony Foxx, Clint Smith, Steph Curry and other high-achieving past Davidson students and alumni. But have you heard of Dr. James Trussell? Dr. Trussell ‘71 was an essential contributor to the development of the emergency contraceptive pill. Emergency contraceptive pills – commonly referred to as “the morning-after pill,” or “Plan B,” can be taken up to five days following unprotected penile-vaginal intercourse, although it works better the sooner it is taken following the encounter.

Plan B offers a safe way to prevent pregnancy if you didn’t use birth control when having vaginal sex, or if your birth control method was faulty. Examples of faulty birth control methods include forgetting to take your pill a few days this month or a condom breaking or slipping off. Plan B works by temporarily stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg, so the egg is unable to connect with sperm that may have entered into the body. According to Planned Parenthood, taking an emergency contraceptive pill can lower your chance of becoming pregnant by 75-89% if you take it within 3 days of having unprotected sex. Plan B does not work if your body has already started ovulating (the egg has already been released) or if you are already pregnant, and it will not harm an existing pregnancy.

Plan B is not the same as the abortion pill, nor does it cause an abortion. It doesn’t end a pregnancy, but it prevents one from beginning. It is safe to take Plan B multiple times, but it is certainly not the best strategy to protect yourself from unintended pregnancies long-term. Make an appointment at the health center to learn about birth control pills, IUDs, or the implant, or just grab some free condoms for much more effective, affordable, and convenient options. However, we are all human, and sometimes we have sex without a great deal of advance planning or careful birth control precautions. In those moments, Plan B is a great option to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Plan B is also a crucial resource for people who are forced into an unprotected sexual encounter. If you ever find yourself in one of these situations, Plan B is available at the student health center for $20 (as opposed to $49.99 at CVS and Harris Teeter). You also can page a nurse during weekend hours to access it—thanks, Davidson!

For years, reproductive rights activists fought for Plan B to become available without a prescription and without age restrictions. Another major achievement in the reproductive rights community occurred about five years ago when the FDA updated their policy to allow Plan B to be available for purchase over the counter right in the aisle—you can find it sitting on the shelf in the “Feminine Care” section of our local CVS. Previously, individuals needed to ask the pharmacy staff specifically for the product or seek special help from customer service, as it was kept behind the counter. Being able to grab Plan B right off the shelf provides for an easy and accessible purchase—no waiting to speak with a store representative or needing to endure a potentially anxiety-inducing interaction with a stranger.

Unfortunately, even five years later, Harris Teeter does not stock Plan B on the shelf despite authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to do so. The FDA does not force retailers to put Plan B on the shelf, but it is allowed. Instead, Harris Teeter continues to force individuals seeking emergency contraception to ask a pharmacist or customer service representative for help. You may not consider this a major blockage to access, but consider how a young teen, an undocumented person, or a recent survivor of sexual assault looking for Plan B may feel. If they don’t see it on the shelf, they may assume that there’s an age limit, or that they’ll be asked for identification at the checkout counter. If they’re in the store outside of normal business hours, there may not be a pharmacist or customer service specialist available to help them at all. Can they afford to wait? Will they have the courage to return the next day? Harris Teeter’s policy causes shaming, dangerous, and unnecessary obstacles to people seeking a safe, time-sensitive, and often crucial healthcare option. With its home base in North Carolina and 245 stores in 7 states and the District of Columbia, Harris Teeter’s choice to keep Plan B behind the desk requiring customers to seek the pharmacy or customer service staff member impacts a huge number of consumers.

If you are as frustrated and angered by their policy as I am, join me in taking action and expressing to Harris Teeter that it’s important to you as a consumer that Plan B is easily accessible to all: Call their headquarters (1-800-432-6111) or fill out a simple ‘Contact Us’ form online through their website, ask to speak to the manager of our local Harris Teeter to let him know your thoughts, and use the hashtag #DontHidePlanB online to contribute to the movement or find more information! If you’re looking for other ways to get involved in reproductive rights advocacy work, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, the NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina leader on campus.

 

Kristen Sands ’18 is a Political Science major and Hispanic Studies minor from Weston, Massachusetts. Contact her at krsands@davidson.edu.

This piece was edited on April 12 to more accurately reflect Harris Teeter’s position and compliance with FDA regulation.

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