• Thu, Apr 21 2011

Opting For Plan B

I don’t consider myself a particularly promiscuous person. In fact on two separate occasions I was celibate for a very long time (a year and a half and three years, respectively.) Nor am I a prude. I enjoy sex enough that it doesn’t have to come within the confines of a serious relationship, but neither am I indiscriminate in my choice of partners to the point where I will sleep with anyone. I get myself tested regularly and I won’t sleep with anyone without a condom. So how does a fairly responsible adult such as myself, end up in a pharmacy purchasing Plan B? Two words: shit happens.

There’s a reason that the condom companies can’t say 100% effective, even with proper usage. Nothing can be 100% effective. You can follow the instructions to the letter, but there’s always the potential that things can break, which is exactly what happened. And yes folks, it really is as upsetting as you think it is to hear your partner say “It broke,” when you know you’re close to your period and you’re not on birth control.

Now point of fact, I’ve been sleeping with the same guy for the past month and while it’s great, I don’t know where it’s going long term. The thought of having a kid with someone I’m still getting to know sounds like a pretty terrible idea. I guess the argument could be made: why are you sleeping with someone you don’t know very well? The answer: I’m a consenting adult and premarital sex is not illegal, yet. But as an adult, I am aware of the risks and I do take responsibility for my actions, and I will do what is right for me. Rather than take my chances, I decided better safe than sorry. So to the pharmacy I went. (Though, Planned Parenthood probably would have been the cheaper option.)

To anti-abortion proponents,” the morning after pill “or Plan B, is often called the “abortion pill”. This is a gross misnomer. In actuality it’s a large dose of hormones, similar to those found in birth control, and as stated on the box: it prevents ovulation, fertilization, or the implantation of a fertilized egg. In short, it mostly prevents conception from even occurring and no fetus is ever aborted. It’s available over the counter, if you’re over the age of seventeen, and often part of procedure with victims of rape and sexual assault, if they so choose. It is only effective up to 72 hours after and even then it’s not 100% (if anything ever truly was one wouldn’t be in the position to need Plan B.) In truth, you should never rely on Plan B, it’s not a failsafe and should never be used in place of more effective, traditional methods like condoms and birth control, but something is better than nothing.

There’s also the horror stories you hear about of all the side effects which include dizziness, nausea, cramps and tiredness. It is a massive dose of hormones after all. I got off light with a half day of sleeping and a wee bit of dizziness the next day.

Pro-life advocates often tout that the availability of the pill promotes promiscuity and irresponsible behavior. That was the same argument used in the 1950s and 60s about the standard birth control pill. There has been no conclusive study linking the availability of emergency contraception to increased promiscuous behavior.

In this society there is still a bit of stigma attached to female sexuality. We should feel bad about enjoying or engaging in sex out of wedlock or monogamy, and if you end up with a broken condom or making a mistake you should suffer the consequences of the Scarlet A. I’m not saying Plan B was the greatest decision of my life. It didn’t exactly feel awesome walking up to the counter, asking for the pill, and showing my ID to prove my age. I expected a bit of judgment, maybe a disapproving look. Instead I was simply asked if I preferred the one or two pill version and was sent on my merry way.

I’m lucky that I live in a country and a state where I am not forced to be held to a different standard as a man (for whom it is easier walk away from an unwanted pregnancy, because they don’t have to carry it.) My partner was relieved I took the precaution and so am I. I personally don’t believe a child should be brought into this world unless they are wanted and loved. They should never be thought of as a mistake. Consequently, your life should not have to be defined by an accident if you can avoid it. Shit happens and I’m glad I had somewhat of an option out.

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  • Arnie

    I had a morning after pill about this time last year. A broken condom really does ruin a six-month anniversary. It was, however, the push I needed to get myself on the pill asap.

    As far as side effects go, I was fairly okay, a few cramps, and an overload of uncontrollable weeping. Although I’m guessing some of that came with the stress and panic where I’d practically convinced myself I was pregnant. Not helped by the fact that it made my period a week late. Poor boyfriend had to deal with a fair bit of sobbing.

    I don’t think I had to show ID, though. But, different countries, so we’ve probably got different rules and things. I know that if you go to the doctor you can get it subsidised down to a couple of dollars. But that also involves waiting, which I certainly didn’t want to do. They know how to get you in a place where you’re just going to pay up.
    The woman at the pharmacy was really kind to me. Took me out the back, asked me the questions, took me through what it actually did and everything, and told me that it would all be okay.
    Not an experience I want to go through again, but I’m definitely grateful to have it available to me if shit does happen.

  • Shit Happened To Me, Too!

    I had only one Plan B experience – with my now-long-term-partner who was my then-hooking-up-just-for-fun-boy-toy. The condom broke, and he calmly assured me that we could get Plan B for next to nothing at his college (COLLEGE!)’s health center. We waited a few minutes, then he bought me breakfast and helped me read the instructions carefully, left me to nap all day and then took me out to dinner for the second pill. I was amazed at how easy everything was – his attitude was amazing, the college health center was non-judgmental, he paid for the pills and never asked me for reimbursement, and though I was sleepy and nervous I didn’t have any side effects at all.

    I think the point of Plan B is just that – it’s a safety net. Their slogan should be “Shit Happens”.

  • Katherine

    Just wanted to point out that the assertion that Plan B is known to opponents as the “abortion pill” is grossly inaccurate.

    Plan B is known as the “Morning-After Pill. It’s UR-86, the pill that flushes an attached fetus out of the uterus, that’s known as the “abortion pill,” namely because, well…it induces abortion.

    I’ve taken Plan B and agree that it can be traumatic., but let’s keep things in perspective here.

    Opponents don’t think of Plan B as an abortion pill. In fact, popular support is so strong for Plan B that just last year the minimum age to pick up a nonprescription, non-chaperoned Morning After Pill at the drugstore was *lowered* from 18 to 17.

    • Becky

      Plan B is does get called the “abortion pill” from time to time by those opposed who don’t know the difference between it and RU 486.

    • Eileen

      Eh, only the dumb ones. I’m pretty pro-life myself and hang out with a pretty pro-life crowd, and we ALL know that Plan B no more causes an abortion than regular birth control pills, IUDs, or any other kind of non-barrier contraceptive. If you’re already pregnant, Plan B does absolutely nothing to keep you from remaining pregnant. I’ve never taken it, personally, and I certainly hope women don’t depend on it in lieu of their regular birth control, but I have no opposition to its being sold and I’ve known the difference between it and RU 486 since it first came out four or five years ago.

  • Charley

    In all fairness, this is not something that is reserved for non-married couples. While I was married, I was not on birth control because it tended to give me migraines. We *always* used condoms because we had agreed that we did not want to have children because we knew that he had some genetic things that we did not want to pass on to a child. I also knew that – though I loved him – I did not want to have children with him.

    Love and marriage does not necessarily equal “willing to raise children with someone”.

  • theComplex

    Great post, I’m so sick of ignorant Pro-lifers and the stigma with female sexuality Plan B as well.

  • Kate

    I think Plan B should be available free to all rape victims at every hospital everywhere. It could save women from getting abortions, stop children from being born into poverty, and ease the emotional burden of a rape (who wants to worry if they’re pregnant for a month after going through that?). I don’t understand why it’s not more readily available.