Following the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the morning-after pill has emerged as a sought-after purchase for many people concerned about accessing reproductive health care. Some women have bought morning after pills in case they or their sexually active children need to prevent pregnancy after sex. Others are stockpiling small amounts pending possible restrictions on contraception, as Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in a consensus published last week. Some women said buying the pills gave them a quick burst of control or power, during an otherwise disorienting moment for abortion rights advocates.
Chrissy Bowen, 51, was sitting on the couch in her living room in Flower Mound, Texas, Friday morning when her husband saw a breaking news message on the screen of their muted TV: The Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, which would soon lead to a ban on the few abortion rights that people in Texas still have.
After she took a shower, where she burst into tears, Ms Bowen posted in her group text chats with friends a link to My Choice Emergency Contraceptive, a tablet that can be taken up to three days after sex.
The so-called morning after pill is an emergency contraceptive that works by preventing ovulation. It differs from abortion pills, known as misoprostol and mifepristone, which are used together to terminate an existing pregnancy, according to Megan N. Freeland, the director of health communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“I’m buying more,” Ms Bowen wrote in a chat about the morning-after pills, after noting she’d already bought some for her children in May, in response to a leaked draft Supreme Court ruling published by Politics. “Reminder,” she texted another of the group chats, referencing an earlier discussion about buying the contraceptive. Then she ordered six additional pills, each paying about $10.
“The rules are the same for both of my kids,” says Ms. Bowen, who has a daughter in high school and a son in college. “They should let their friends know that we have the pills and if one is used, we should replace it with a new one. I didn’t become a crazy buyer hoarding hundreds of pills, and I’m not trying to give birth control to the whole city. I’m doing this because abortion won’t be available now and I’m afraid this kind of birth control won’t be available anytime soon.”
Ms Bowen checked her order the day after the ruling and saw a message on the Amazon seller page: The seller’s inventory was sold out.
As people across the country take in the news of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal protections for the right to abortion, there has been a surge of interest and demand for legal options available to people who want to prevent pregnancy. . In the days following the decision, many women searched for a tool to take control of their own reproductive future and signed up at stores and health care websites to purchase emergency contraceptive pills taken after sex to prevent pregnancies.†
Even before rallies and marches could be organized, the immediacy and access of the Internet was an outlet. The founders of Stix, a vaginal and reproductive health company that sells products such as pregnancy tests, yeast infection products and emergency contraception online, said demand for Restart, the morning-after pill, has increased by more than 600 percent in the 24 hours since. the announcement of the Supreme Court. A pill costs $38 and has a shelf life of up to 20 months.
“Seventy-two percent of those people bought more than one dose,” said Cynthia Plotch, co-CEO along with Stix’s Jamie Norwood.
Retailers are trying to boost the supply. On Friday, Wellspring Meds, the health products website, along with the company’s Amazon store, sold more than 6,000 units of emergency contraception, up from 1,000 units the day before, said Ariel Kondov, one of the company’s owners.
“I don’t think anyone is willing to meet the demand” with the current inventory, Mr Kondov said. He contacted morning-after manufacturers on Friday, who assured him that they are increasing production and will continue to meet rising demand.
Currently, there are two primary products in the emergency contraception (or morning-after) category.
Plan B is the best known brand of morning after pills. Levonorgestrel is the main ingredient in Plan B and other over-the-counter morning-after pills. Levonorgestrel, taken within 72 hours of sexual activity, prevents pregnancy by interfering with the process of ovulation. It is less effective in people who weigh more than 165 pounds, according to Planned Parenthood.
Ella, a prescription morning-after pill that contains ulipristal acetate, can be taken up to five days after sex. It may be more effective than Plan B in women who weigh more than 165 pounds (but no more than 195 pounds), according to Planned Parenthood. It also works by interfering with the ovulation process.
Since some emergency contraception works better the earlier it is taken, Planned Parenthood advises that it may be a good idea to get it before it is needed, said Ms. Freeland, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood. “But also keep in mind that using or hoarding emergency contraception can limit the ability of people in your community” to get it.
To get an Ella prescription, people can consult their doctor, health clinics like Planned Parenthood, or licensed professionals at telehealth companies like Wisp, which provides reproductive products and services such as virtual doctor’s appointments.
According to Ahmad Bani, the company’s CEO, in May, following the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Wisp saw a 40 percent increase in sales of emergency contraceptive products and services from the previous month. And in the 24 hours after the Supreme Court’s official announcement on Friday, Wisp’s emergency contraceptive sales were 25 times what it had sold in the entire month of May.
But people are more concerned about the pitfalls of panic buying and the shortages it can create than they were about certain supplies in the early days of the pandemic. “We’ve all seen what happened to toilet paper,” said Hannah Lyter, 27, a social media executive who helped create content for Wisp and has bought pills to distribute to those in need.
Sarah McKenna, a 21-year-old spiritual counselor and tarot card reader in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, went on Amazon to purchase three pills when the announcement was made, to add to the order she placed last month after the draft decision was leaked.
“My first thought was that I would like to buy morning after pills, not just for myself, but also for those who need it, because people are going to buy them and resell them for an insane price,” Ms McKenna said. “I have friends and family who can’t always afford those things and I just wanted to have a little something extra to make sure the people who need it can have it. Even if I have to randomly send it to someone.”
Ms. McKenna bought My Way Emergency Contraceptive, a generic version of Plan B One-Step that usually costs $8 a pill. An hour after her purchase, Ms. McKenna noticed that prices were rising. The day after the announcement, it sold out on the Amazon seller page.
“It will continue to happen,” she said of price hikes and supply shortages.
Mrs. McKenna has a total of five morning after pills and plans to keep a few for herself. “It’s good to be prepared,” she added. She refrained from buying more because she didn’t want others who might need them more urgently not to have access to it.
As long as there aren’t laws that make it a crime to put birth control in the mail, she said, “I’d definitely send it to people if they needed it.”
Margaret Laws, 57, was visiting her sister in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, when she heard the decision and decided to buy morning after pills that day. “I was like, ‘I can’t just stand by and do nothing.'” Ms. Laws lives in Oakland, California, but spends a quarter of her time with family in Oklahoma, a state with the most restrictive abortion law in the country before the verdict.
With about $100 in her health savings account (HSA), she bought 10 pills. “My first thought was, ‘I’m going to find out where I can safely distribute this locally, because there will be a girl who is having intercourse voluntarily or involuntarily and is afraid of getting pregnant,'” she said.
Ms. Laws, who is a lesbian and does not have sex with men, has notified her network of women in the Tulsa area, especially those with daughters, to let them know they can call her if they need pills. She has also limited the amount she has bought.
If her reach makes her a modern day “drug dealer,” Ms. Laws wondered, if it violates HSA rules because she bought medical products that she won’t be using herself, so be it. “What do I care right now?” she said. “Let them come to me.”
Especially women with connections to states that have or will make abortion illegal have been quick to buy emergency contraceptive pills. Stacey Michelon, 52, is a board member of Illinois Planned Parenthood organizations and an abortion rights activist. Illinois is a state expected to enforce laws protecting abortion rights. But Ms. Michelon is also the mother of five children, the youngest of whom attends Tulane University, in New Orleans, La., where abortion is banned.
Ms. Michelon has ordered a few Plan B packs for her children so that they have enough for any friends in need. This week, she texted a group of parents whose children are going to Tulane with her son, requesting that they send their children to school armed with morning-after pills this fall. “A lot of them probably thought I’m some crazy tune, one of those liberal freaks,” she said. “But I felt I had an obligation because our children go to school in a state hostile to abortion care. And this is not just something that we should do for our daughters. Our sons need to know that this is a problem for them too.”
Maria Ianni, a mother of a 21-year-old daughter and 19-year-old twins (a son and a daughter) in Mission Hills, Kansas, felt the emotional pull on Friday to buy them. She ordered six packages.
Ms. Ianni, 53, said she is not a proponent of abortion, but an advocate of choice. “My oldest daughter was adopted and her biological parents made the decision to have her, which I am so grateful for. But I’m also glad they got to choose. If my kids were in that position, if they got pregnant or got someone pregnant, I want them to have a full range of options.”
When she thought about what she could do to make sure her kids had choices, she ordered Plan B. “I felt like my hand was being forced,” she said.