This weekend I tried to buy Plan B over the counter at a Rite Aid and was denied.

Let me explain. It wasn’t for me, I have a Paraguard and my boyfriend had a vasectomy. Basically, the chance of me getting pregnant is so astronomically impossible that we’d be pimping the story out to every tabloid and we would aim for a reality show, which we would call The Second Coming.

What happened was the previous evening my boyfriend and I had had a robust discussion about contraception with a bunch of college kids and a high schooler. The kids soaked up the practical and safe sex info, but we were both a bit aghast when we found out that having Plan B close at hand was not discussed in high school sex ed (and neither were female condoms, by the way).

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 a16 year old, you know what I mean?

I made my case. All 45 years.

Didn’t matter, no ID no Plan B.

I can imagine a multitude of scenarios where a woman, young or more mature, could arrive at a pharmacy counter needing Plan B but not have her ID in hand. And that one extra barrier (besides the $39 price, for the generic no less) might just be the difference between buying Plan B today and buying diapers in 9 months.

Plan B isn’t alcohol. Plan B isn’t cigarettes. There is no contraindication to using it. Not one. It’s safer than Tylenol. It’s safer than driving a car.

Requiring ID to buy Plan B is ludicrous and not required by every drug store. I’ve purchased Plan B at my work (although they know I’m a doctor, so probably okay with me not “proving” I’m over 16), but I confess to once buying it for myself in Las Vegas at a Walgreens, and no ID was required.

In the end, my boyfriend (ironically the person who would not be taking the Plan B) had ID so his house is stocked.

Adding barriers, like medically unsound age restrictions, affects many more people that you think and doesn’t protect anyone. If a 16 year girl is having sex and the condom breaks and she’s missed a bunch of pills, is she really going to wander down to the kitchen the next morning and ask for a ride to Rite Aid and oh, by the way, bring your ID mom because I need the morning after pill? Nope, she’ll probably go without and somehow that makes America safer for us all.

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  1. As I posted on the other thread, it is absolutely humiliating for grown up women to have to show up ID to get an emergency birth control pill. NO woman of any age should undergo that. To me it is a violation of women rights.
    It is also absurd that emergency birth control is so prohibitive in price. According to the new Obama law beginning in March 2012 all forms of prescribed birth control should be free of charge. This is a gray area, because EBC is listed as well, but is seldom prescribed. However, to be able to get it at a lower price (health insurance might pick up the tab) one has to get a doctor prescription. Imagine that! It is an emergency birth control pill which must be taken within 72 hrs or asap.

    How you do that?

    These little loopholes of the law and the numerous prohibitions placed upon women, occur solely for political reasons. With the very, very WRONG assumption that users of the morning after pill are only young teens.
    Well, that’s simply not true. A large number of women over 35, 40, 45 used it as well.

    Somebody, on a previous post, mentioned about the pharmacy computer system being set up in such way that a person DOB is required. Well, this must be changed. Unless the age is required for statistical research purposes, in which case an individual should be asked if they would like to volunteer their age for that.

  2. What about women who don’t have photo ID? Not everyone has a drivers license or a passport, especially younger, lower income women, and immigrants, for whom there are already numerous barriers to getting emergency contraception. People are up in arms about ID and voter disenfranchisement… this isn’t all that different.

  3. I came across your blog and really enjoyed the content about topics that affect women’s health and wellness. You understand the power of physicians using social media to provide reliable medical knowledge and I highly recommend as a complement to your blog.

  4. I’m a pharmacy tech and if it was up to me I’d hand it out like candy. The register prompts for a birthday and the pharmacists pay very close attention when we are ringing up anything that requires id. I know how silly it is to require id, but as the above poster noted if they don’t id how do they know who is 17 or over? Best policy is to id everybody, no favoritism that way. And in this economy I’m not losing my job b/c somebody doesn’t have id on them. (i will happily sell to their boyfriend, friend or relative who has id on them though, even if i know its not for them)

    My sister is a server at a restaurant and requires our mother to show id for an alcohol purchase.

    It’s not just plan b at the pharmacy either, it’s alcohol, cigarettes, sudafed, and dextromethorphan too.

    1. Honestly — and I respect that this is just anecdata and may just be my pharmacy — but I’ve definitely purchased alcohol a few times at my pharmacy and had the tech ringing me up enter an “old enough” birthday without checking my ID. Whether or not the rule should have been bent in that case (I actually think not), it was — and in a situation with far more potential for danger than selling emergency contraception.

  5. I will always be thankful to the doc who when I was a rebellious 16 year old wanting birth control broke the “law” and gave me the pill without parental consent. I can’t begin to imagine what my life would have been like otherwise.

  6. Agree with your point- it should be available to all. However, if they don’t check ID, how do they know who is over 17? Yes, it’s a dumb rule, but that doesn’t mean pharmacists may ignore it.

  7. One of the reasons I also despise requiring ID to purchase Plan B is that it is yet another barrier to reproductive control to the large number of people who live in small communities. There are lots of areas in this country where the pharmacist or cashier may not recognize every single person’s face, but they may recognize the last name on the ID. if you know the person at the counter may have connections to people who know you and your family, how likely are you to want to show your ID to purchase Plan B? As your example shows, it’s not only the 17 and younger set that has to face this obstacle. If most people of reproductive age would get carded, that includes just about every customer for Plan B.

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