CVS and Rite Aid Are Rationing Emergency Contraception

One online sexual health care provider, Wisp, reports a 3,000% rise in sales of Plan B since Friday.

HealthIn Depth
CVS and Rite Aid Are Rationing Emergency Contraception

Amid the continued fallout around the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, CVS and Rite Aid are now moving to ration emergency contraception. Both drugstores say they’re currently limiting purchases of the Plan B morning after pill to three per customer.

While CVS says it has an “ample supply” of emergency contraception, its policy is intended to “ensure equitable access and consistent supply on store shelves.” (Though, if CVS wants to promote access to Plan B, they could consider say, not locking it away or stashing it behind the register.) Still, both drugstores acknowledged rising demand for Plan B following the Supreme Court ruling, which opens the door for states to ban and criminalize abortion care—and they aren’t alone. Walgreens appears to have temporarily paused selling emergency contraception online, though it remains available to be ordered for pick-up in-store. Kroger says it’s not currently selling Plan B online, and “in-store stocks are low.” One online sexual health care provider, Wisp, reports a 3,000% spike in sales of Plan B since Friday, once Roe was overturned.

Already, more than a dozen states have moved to enact pre-Roe abortion bans or trigger laws, as well as near-total bans that had previously been blocked in court. The reversal of Roe has sparked all kinds of chaos and concerns about being unable to access abortion care, naturally driving heightened, panicked demand for emergency contraception.

Despite these justified fears, these are dire times, and we’re all in this together—hoarding emergency contraception isn’t the solution. Doing so will inevitably prevent others from being able to access Plan B if it’s sold out, and create even more cost barriers by driving up prices. The morning after pill is already expensive, and given high rates of inflation, the price of everything is going up. Stockpiling it could lead to this essential family planning resource becoming inaccessible to people with the greatest need, at a time when more people than ever will be relying on it.

Unless you have an actual plan to distribute emergency contraception to those in need in your community and are consulting with local abortion funds or your local clinic, there’s no reason to purchase it in bulk.

That said, definitely do keep an emergency stash of Plan B in tow if you can; the pill, which typically costs about $50, has a four-year shelf-life, and you never know when you or a loved one might need it. But just remember that the last thing we need in this crisis is wealthy people lining medicine cabinets with dozens of doses of a medication that will inevitably go unused and expire, while those in need can’t obtain it.

While we’re on the subject of purchasing and storing emergency contraception in advance, you might be confused about the do’s and don’ts of purchasing abortion pills in advance, too. For starters, medication abortion is entirely different from emergency contraception, contrary to Republican politicians’ frequent attempts to lump the two together, and Supreme Court justices’ own demonstrated ignorance on this. Emergency contraception prevents a pregnancy, while abortion pills end one.

You can purchase abortion pills online regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not from online medication abortion providers Aid Access and Forward Midwifery. Both offer a service called “advance provision,” and prescribe pills in case they’re ever needed, meaning you can purchase them regardless of whether you’re pregnant. Medication abortion has a shelf life of two years, and in addition to an emergency stash of Plan B, if you can afford abortion pills, experts are recommending that you do so.

Without the federally guaranteed right to abortion, we’re all scrambling to figure out what the post-Roe future will look like, and how to keep ourselves and loved ones safe from emergencies like forced unwanted pregnancies, unsafe pregnancies, and even criminalization for miscarriage and abortion. We all have a part to play in taking care of ourselves and each other—not hoarding emergency contraception is one of many ways to do so. And pharmacies have an obligation to ensure everyone can access emergency contraception in a timely and affordable manner.

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