Monday, December 04, 2006

Got Plan B?

From a weekly round-up at Feministing, I got to reading this article on the availability of Plan B or emergency contraception in the Chicago area.

The author decides to test whether she could get Plan B if she needed it.

I was surprised by how nervous I became before each call. This was especially true if I'd just spoken with an attendant or nurse that seemed resistant to my request. The call to Weiss and the attendant's hostility shook me up, leaving me to wonder about the reactions of a woman who actually needed EC. I should have been fairly well insulated emotionally — my story was fake, whereas a woman seeking much-needed medication would have become more distraught over each discouraging call.

Once upon a time I was called upon as part of my work to call up doctors' offices and see whether they would accept me as a new patient if I had private insurance or was covered by Medicaid. Not an experience I would volunteer to duplicate. Sometimes the people talking to me were perfectly nice. If they understood that I had private insurance. If I had Medicaid I could rot in hell waiting for an appointment as a new patient. Many people were explicit: the doctor was not accepting any new Medicaid patients, that particular quota was filled. One person, memorably, went off on how I had better promise that I would show up. Apparently us (faux) Medicaid patients never bother to actually show up for our appointments. [Don't worry, I didn't actually make appointments. I always found out when the earliest appointment available was, and then said I would call back.

It was horrible. How horrible? Well, it's been more than ten years since that research project, and it still unnerves me to think about it. So when Brienne Callahan writes about how hard it was for her, I totally got it. It's hard to put yourself into a submissive position and take the abuse, even when you know you're just pretending. Do I have to explicitly state how much it sucks that being poor or being female and needing emergency contraception opens you up to that sort of abuse? What's worse, though, is that the anxiety is just as great, even if you aren't getting abused. Just knowing it might come is enough.

Go ahead, try the experiment, and post your results. Call your local pharmacies or ERs or doctor's offices and ask about Plan B. My local Kerr Drug pharmacy, I'm happy to report, graciously informed me that they stock Plan B, and that a prescription isn't necessary, although you have to ask for it in the pharmacy. Even the pharmacist at the evil big box store greeted me warmly and checked for me whether she had any in stock. She was sorry to inform me that they had sold out of the non-prescription kind, but she did have the prescription kind in stock. Even though she was perfectly nice, I didn't have the courage to go on asking more questions. It was a relief to hang up.


Debi said...

Thanks for the link to that article, hon. It really is a horrendous thing.

Kaethe said...

It's scary how hard it can be just to call up. I hate to think about the effort involved in getting it if I needed it.

Pony said...

I went through the same thing in my community, in Canada, while doing a survey. Many Americans are under the perception Plan B is handled over at any and all pharmicies here. It's not. It's supposed to be, but there are several teeny print get out clauses in the pharmacy handbook. If you phone, they won't tell you if some of their staff pharmarcists don't want to hand it over for *reasons of conscience*, or if there's anyone else there who could fill it. You have to arrive there at 4 a.m. to find you've got the godbag, who also doesn't have to tell you where you *could* get it. At 4 a.m. Every instance of wiggling around what they are supposed to do would have to entail written complaints, red tape, and of course, your probable pregnancy.

I think women should form an intervention group (something like rape crisis responders) who can be called to accompany a young woman to the pharmacy, day or night. Because when it's *your* life on the line, you may be intimidated adn confused and scared. I won't be.

Kaethe said...

Pony, that's an excellant idea. And, of course, document everything. I hope that many of us will make the effort to find out ahead of time whether it's available, and what hoops the locally pharmacies are setting up for us to jump through.

Four am, huh? Wow. Must be nice to live in an area with a 24 hour pharmacy. I'd pretty much forgotten how great that is.