• Thu, Dec 8 2011

Plan B Saved My Life – Or At Least My Sanity

“Oh, shit, the condom ripped,” Steve told me post-coitus. Never before had I sobered up so quickly. “Damn!” is all I could think. That had never happened to me before. I thought of AIDS and STDs but most of all, I thought of pregnancy.

“I need the morning after pill,” I told him, and so the next morning we hopped in the car and drove for hours to the nearest medical center, which happened to be a hospital. We went to emerge, told them our situation, waited for what seemed like eons. Finally, it was our turn to see the doctor – a lovely woman in her 40s – and I explained that the condom had ripped and that I was petrified of being pregnant. She asked a series of questions, lectured us on STDs, then wrote me a script for the morning after pill.

“You’ll feel nauseous and might have some cramping like with a heavy period,” she told me before shooting Steve the dirtiest look I’ve ever seen. In fact, she gave him the evil eye the entire time. This woman was so kind and nurturing to me – she asked repeatedly if I was okay – and yet she treated Steve like he was the scum of the earth. (I kind of got a kick out of it.)

I took the pill and spent the day in bed watching made-for-TV movies and reading trashy magazines. And then it was done. I remember feeling slightly guilty about it, almost like, “What if I hadn’t taken the pill? What if this was my one shot at parenthood?” I kept those thoughts to myself – they seemed so silly at the time – and returned home 48 hours later.

Three months later, I began dating someone new. We’re now married with two children. Life is good.

But with all this talk of Plan B – and the debate over whether or not it should be available over the counter – I think not so much of my own children and what their options might be one day, but rather of that heated night in the English countryside, and how grateful I was back then to have the option of emergency contraception.

I wasn’t young, and I certainly wasn’t alone, but I still felt very panicked and vulnerable. I had always been so careful about protection – ridiculously careful – and so it was jarring to learn that mistakes happen despite our best efforts (I still have no clue how that condom ripped). [tagbox tag="contraception"]

We should all be practicing safe sex but as I learned first-hand, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Thankfully, I was in my 20s when I had my little “accident” and I would have been equipped to deal the situation either way (assuming I got pregnant, that is). But it’s often those in their early teens who need help the most. They’re the ones who are less inclined to turn to their parents, for instance (even if you’re close with your parents, there’s a big difference between telling them about a ripped condom at age 23 vs. age 15).

The truth is, teens are having sex and will continue to do so for all eternity. Accidents happen, rape happens, poor judgement happens. Having access to emergency contraception is vital. It would help prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates and, most importantly, empower girls with choice. Imagine that.

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  • Rebecca

    I definitely think it should be available to younger teenage girls. Maybe it should legally require a sit-down with the pharmacist for girls under a certain age so that they know exactly what they need to do and maybe even discuss her options for future birth control. I think the two concerns are that younger girls will use plan b as their primary birth control and that parents want to know if their kids are having sex. On the first point, if you educate your kids about sex and give them options for BC it won’t be an issue, so look to yourselves, and on the second point, maybe your kid will have sex and maybe she won’t. You can influence her decision but ultimately it is hers. Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t solve anything.

    • Jen

      My dad is a pharmacist and while Plan B doesn’t currently require sit-down counseling, it is a requirement that it be sold only when a pharmacist is on duty so that (s)he may counsel the patient. My father definitely assesses the individuals who buy Plan B in his store (as he assesses people who buy any OTC item) and if he thinks they are in need of counseling or might have trouble with the directions he’ll counsel them even if they don’t request him to. But, in all honesty, Plan B is pretty simple.

  • Sarah Buttenwieser

    So well put. All week I’ve been thinking that there are so many things I don’t trust my 16 year old about (or do but might worry)–Plan B though, I’d say bring it on. I want the way paved for smart choices (even if an accident or a less great choice preceded it).

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  • Diana

    Funny story about the Plan-B pill… My best friend, who is usually very mature and the ‘sane’ one, the one who stops me from my crazy plans, had began having sex with her new boyfriend, who happened to be a virgin. Apparently, he had problems finishing with a condom, so on a Tuesday night, they go ahead without one, because she thought she’d count on the calendar method.

    The following day, we had classes (we were at uni at the time) in the morning and met for a chat at lunch. She told me about having unprotected sex, which made me jump and immediately drag her to the nearest farmacy.

    Important detail 1: We were in Germany, though the courses at uni were in English so neither of us spoke German all that well. Saying ‘the morning after pill’ didn’t work so there I was explaining half English, half German, half signs what I needed.

    Important detail 2: You need a doctor’s prescription to buy the pill, and it was lunchtime so there was nothing near by that was open, except a dentist’s office, but they weren’t allowed to prescribe it. So we thought we’d try again after 4 pm, which we did.

    Important detail 3: Most doctors, if not all, in that town do not work on Wednesday afternoons, which we found out by going to every medical cabinet we could think of (in the area).

    Happy ending though, we went back to the farmacy, I explained the situation to the guy and he, understandingly, agreed to sell me the pill. Though he did suggest that next time we try the hospital for emergencies, which was really difficult to get to by bus.

    Same rule applies for the UK I think… But I find this extremely silly and counterproductive and a waste of time. What’s supposed to prevent? Over-usage? If I want to abuse it, I can go to different doctors, if I want to learn more about using it properly, I can ask the farmacist or my doctor. Not to mention that when I got the pills, I also got a lecture on how to use it and how to think more next time. (For those confused, I did all the talking and pretended it was for me, because my friend is really)

    • Jen

      In Germany you do indeed need a RX for the morning after pill, however the same is not true in Britain. In the UK the morning after pill is available OTC for anyone over 16 and even Ireland will have it OTC in some pharmacies starting this January and in ALL pharmacies by February.

      And medical professionals agree that Plan B is both safe and effective, there are pretty much zero known interactions between Plan B and other medications, no pre-existing conditions which would stop you from being able to use it safely and mild to moderate side effects (which are better than most OTC items). In short, there is absolutely NO reason that we should not be selling this medication to anyone who needs it.