The Wall Street Journal reports that the FDA has approved a generic version of emergency contraceptive Plan B — thing is, many women still struggle with access to the brand name version.

The generic, made by Watson Pharmaceuticals and called Next Choice, will be prescription only and aimed at women 17 and younger until August 24, when Duramed Pharmaceuticals's exclusive contract to market over-the-counter plan Plan B. At that time, the generic will be available over-the-counter, a fact that will most likely be a boon to women who find the cost of brand-name Plan B prohibitive.

While the FDA's decision to allow the over-the-counter sale of Plan B to girls 17 and younger has improved access, not everyone can buy the drug. A Missouri law, for instance, allows pharmacies to refuse to sell Plan B. Similar laws exist in Idaho, Illinois, and Washington. Military women, too, have difficulty accessing the drug, as it is not on the list of medications that must be stocked at military pharmacies. As Nancy Northup of RHRealityCheck points out, this means that women who are assaulted during their military service (there were 2,668 assaults reported in 2007) may have no way of getting emergency contraception, especially if they are stationed at a base overseas.

In a moving editorial after over-the-counter sales were extended to girls under 17, Elizabeth Garber-Paul wrote,

My first trip for a Plan B pill was a cold, dreary bus ride up Lake Shore Drive to the Planned Parenthood in downtown Chicago. I remember looking out over the frozen lake, wondering what would happen if I couldn't get the pill that afternoon. I was 15, and not ready to deal with making the decision between pregnancy and abortion. (At 22, I can confidently say that I'm still not.)

Luckily, as a teen I was informed enough to know what to do. It took me two attempts to make it to the center when it was open-closed every other Sunday-and the longer I waited, the less effective I knew the pills would be. I can't imagine how much terror would have been avoided had I been able to stop into the 24 hour Walgreens with my boyfriend immediately after the condom broke.

The availability of a generic option, when it becomes over the counter, should make emergency contraception easier. However, it's still not available to everyone. Garber-Paul writes, "a lonely bus is no place for a scared girl." Nor is a pharmacy a place for ideology.


FDA Approves Generic Version Of Plan B [Wall Street Journal]
EC Still Inaccessible For Military Women [RHRealityCheck]
Watson Gets FDA Approval For Generic Plan B [AP]
Missouri House OKs Amendment To Let Pharmacies Refuse Contraception Pills [Missourian]
Planned Parenthood Applauds FDA On Plan B [Planned Parenthood]
Washington Pharmacists Can Refuse To Dispense Plan B Contraception [Wall Street Journal]
Plan B: Trouble In Illinois [Broadsheet]