Two days ago I had sex with my boyfriend and the condom broke. I want to get the morning after pill, but do I need a prescription in order to use it? If I take the morning after pill, am I having an abortion?
Emergency contraception, also commonly known as the “morning after” pill, “Plan B,” or “EC” is available to women aged 17 and older without a prescription. Based on studies proving its safety and efficacy, the NWHN strongly supports the movement to make emergency contraception available to women of all ages without a prescription. In the meantime, if you are under 17 years of age, you can get a prescription for the morning after pill from your healthcare provider or from a health center like Planned Parenthood.
Emergency Contraception Pill Options
There are three types of pills available for emergency contraception, two of which can be obtained without a prescription if you are 17 or older. The two you can get without a prescription are: Plan B One-Step and Next Choice (generics simply labeled “Levonorgestrel Tablets” may also be available). Plan B One-Step is a single-pill product, while Next Choice requires that you take two pills for a complete dose.
The third type of emergency contraception pill, known as ella, contains different ingredients and requires a prescription for women of all ages.
Next Choice and Plan B One-Step are labeled to be used within 72 hours after unprotected sex, while ella can be used up to five days after. However, research shows that the sooner EC is taken, the better it works.
Taking emergency contraception after unprotected sex is not an abortion. Unfortunately, many people think that the morning after pill is the same as RU486 or mifepristone, a drug that is used for abortion. This confusion is often purposely perpetuated by anti-choice advocates who oppose both abortion and contraception. In reality, the morning after pill prevents pregnancy in the same way that birth control pills do – by preventing or delaying the ovaries from releasing an egg and/or by making it harder for fertilization to occur. EC is not effective if fertilization has already taken place, which is why it should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex occurs. It’s not a bad idea to buy some to have at home, just in case!
- Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource for information on the various methods of birth control and also dispenses emergency contraception at its conveniently located health centers.
- Use the easy Not-2-Late.com EC Locator to find a health center or pharmacy near you that carries emergency contraception.
- The Reproductive Health Technologies Project advocates for increased access to reproductive health services and contraception. Like the NWHN, the RHTP also supports the extension of access to emergency contraception for women under 17 without a prescription.
- An excerpt on emergency contraception from the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves is available online at OurBodiesOurselves.org.