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Plan B pill provides back-up plan for safe sex


September 22, 2006

Imagine my astonishment when the condom was nowhere to be found. We were sure we had used one, but it
had disappeared. Something needed to be done, and quick.

The morning after pill (Plan B) is not the same as the abortion pill (RU-486), according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Plan B pill is emergency contraception, which includes two levonorgestrel pills taken by mouth as soon as possible after unprotected sex. The levonorgestrel pills stop the release of an egg from the ovary. It is also possible that Plan B may interfere with fertilization or prevent implantation to the uterus.
It is important to realize that Plan B does not have the power to kill a living specimen like RU-486 does.

Instead, Plan B prevents a living specimen from being created. Knowing that Plan B pill is most
effective when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, I started up my laptop and began searching for the nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Once my boyfriend and I arrived at the clinic, I had to fill out a couple pages of paperwork, along with read- ing and signing a document that explained what Plan B is and how it works.

The nurse practitioner took me into a separate room, ran through a short checklist of questions, and things she needed to inform me of before she gave me the pills. She told me that although it used to be common practice to have me take one pill now and the second exactly 12 hours later, they had found many women would forget to take the second pill and therefore had determined that taking two pills at once was a safer bet than taking them 12 hours apart. She gave me a packet containing the pills and a glass of water along with pamphlets that were neatly in an “FYI” folder.

After I paid for the pills and walked out the door, I began to look at the folder and its contents. First, there was a sheet describing the consent form I signed earlier in Spanish, but not English. Second, there was a pamphlet on condoms and their proper use, which I found rather amusing. The third pamphlet was about sexually transmitted diseases.

Since a couple months ago when a mint-flavored condom decided to play a disappearing act, the FDA has approved Plan B to be sold over the counter to women ages 18 and older.

According to the FDA, the company Duramed will make Plan B available through the CARE (Convenient Access, Responsible Education) program. Although Plan B will be available without a prescription, it will be kept behind the counter at pharmacies staffed by a licensed pharmacist. This is for security reasons to ensure underage women aren’t getting the pills without a prescription.

When purchasing Plan B, one will need to provide personal identification to verify they are 18 or older. Since one still needs to consult a pharmacist, I would suggest that once Plan B is available over the counter, you locate 24-hour pharmacies such as Walgreens in Woodbury, Minn., on Valley Creek Road, to ensure you will be able to obtain Plan B when you need it.

Let me assure you, I am not saying unprotected sex is OK or a good idea. Personally, I always use a condom,
but sometimes things do happen that turn safe sex unsafe, such as the condom slipping off or breaking. Using the Plan B pill does have side effects and should not be used regularly; it’s called emergency contraception for a reason. It should only be used in emergencies.

Nicole Aune is a student at UW-River Falls.