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Plan B reality: available or not?

Plan B reality
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12/30/2013 - Most every pharmacy in our community has a "sex" section. Condoms hang here in tidy boxes. Lubricants hawk security, friction and fruity flavors. Jellies found here are not for your toast.

Perhaps you're here to browse. To assert your sexual responsibility with your pocketbook. To giggle. Or you might be running in, crazy-eyed and blushing, scanning for the item that may calm the rising tide of panic within you. A pregnancy test. A home HIV test kit. Or to grab the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill.

Plan B One-Step's friendly pink, purple and green packaging blends in well with the other items, but its price tag - $39 to $49 - stands out amongst the $6 crowd. The package contains one pill only. And, if taken within 72 hours of sex, it can safely prevent pregnancy.

A federal law in April 2013 mandated the pill be available over the counter – meaning on store shelves – to all persons of "childbearing age." Even so, area pharmacies sport different interpretations of "access to all."

In Oakland County, you might have to ask the pharmacist for Plan B. One pharmacy we visited did not stock it at all. It might be put away in a security box, out of convenient access. Or it might be right there on the shelf, as easy to buy as a box of sinus medicine. Here's our look at Plan B's impact in our community.

Planning is part of preparation. Do you know the location of the nearest exit? The closest defibrillator? Do you have a family plan in case of a fire, tornado and food shortage? Where is your nearest Plan B emergency contraception?

No matter where your personal politics fall on the conception or abortion spectrum, most people agree on one thing: when you're dealing with a time-oriented sexual intervention, every minute matters. That's why there are prayer vigils outside clinics and ardent advocates ushering people inside the doors. Legal – and moral – distinctions are made in months, in weeks, and in Plan B's case – hours.

A woman has 72 hours after sex to take emergency contraception to be reasonably assured of its effectiveness, though its effects can last up to five days later.

It's a tight deadline, and research shows that the more hurdles there are between a person and the ability to gain its intervention, the less likely its purchase and use.

This puts every step in purchasing the emergency contraception under a microscope. Seemingly small distinctions play a large role in the debate – on both sides of the issue.

How easy is it to get Plan B in our community? How do people feel about its placement in our pharmacies? What is it anyway?

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