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Roe v Wade: US Pharmacies Put Limit on Sales of Emergency Contraceptive Pills

Roe v Wade doesn't talk about contraceptive pills. But, here's how the Supreme Court's decision endangers its access

Updated
Her Health
4 min read
Roe v Wade: US Pharmacies Put Limit on Sales of Emergency Contraceptive Pills
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US Pharmacies and medical stores like CVS, Walmart, and Rite Aid have reportedly placed limits on the number of morning-after birth control pills individuals can buy after the supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

Following the verdict, Walmart put a cap of four to six units on emergency contraceptives while Rite Aid and CVS placed caps of three per brand of emergency contraceptive pill per consumer, The Guardian reported.

Spokespersons of CVS said that the move was effected to ensure everyone gets access to the pills, adding that sales had shot up following the verdict.

By overturning Roe v Wade on Friday, 24 June, the US Supreme Court essentially struck down the constitutional right to abortions in the country that had existed for 50 years.

The decision sparked protests across the US as 13 states have passed laws to ban or severely restrict abortions, and over half the states in the US which are ruled by the Republican party are expected to follow suit.

The decision has brought up questions of how this ruling will affect access to abortion pills, and even contraception pills, especially emergency contraceptive pills.

There is also a fair bit of confusion between the two types of pills, and ambiguity surrounding their use.

FIT explains.

Roe v Wade: US Pharmacies Put Limit on Sales of Emergency Contraceptive Pills

  1. 1. Emergency Contraceptive Pills: Where the Law Stands

    The Supreme Court ruling to strike down Roe v Wade leaves it up to the states to decide the legality of abortions within their states, however it doesn't in itself extend to abortion or contraceptive pills.

    Abortion pills have, however, been outlawed in many states, and experts fear the same arguments could apply to emergency contraceptives, or ''morning-after pills, and even contraceptive tools like IUDs that not only prevent fertilisation, but also sometimes prevent a fertilised embryo from attaching to the uterus.

    Post the ruling, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas opined that other substantive rights including the right to access to contraceptives, including the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which guarantees access to contraceptives, should be reconsidered.

    Despite the false equavalence that some are drawing, let's make it clear, contraception is not the same as abortion.

    "We can't speculate right now about the impact of the decision on emergency contraception use, but it is important to note that emergency contraception does not cause abortions," a representative of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists tells FIT.

    "It is helpful at preventing a pregnancy but will not end one," she adds.

    Expand
  2. 2. How are Emergency Pills Different From Abortion Pills?

    Let's break it down.

    Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancies, or at best, reduces the chance of getting pregnant.

    These are meant to be taken after unprotected sex, or if you're not completely sure your contraceptive will work - having a condom break or spill off, forgetting to take your birth control.

    It must be underscored though, that once pregnant, this pill doesn't work.

    Abortion pills on the other hand are meant to terminate pregnancies by inducing a miscarriage.

    Two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol are taken for this.

    • The first pill is mifepristone, which blocks a hormone known as progesterone that the body needs for a pregnancy to continue.

    • The second drug, misoprostol, is taken 24 to 48 hours later. This medication causes cramping and bleeding and empties the uterus.

    The Food and Drug Administration recently dropped the requirement for a medical professional to dispense the medicine in person, "because of the robust data that showed that medication abortion could be safety and effectively utilized without in-person dispensing, making medication abortion available through telehealth," according to the ACOG.

    "Evidence also indicates that people can safely carry out a medication abortion without direct doctor supervision when they have access to accurate information, reliable medications, and support if a rare complication arises."
    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

    Online sales of abortion pills via telemedicine have, in fact, gone up during the pandemic.

    However, many women now fear telemedicine platforms and period tracking apps are collecting their data that can be used against them.

    Many women in states where abortion pills are banned also rely on shipping them from other states. However, some states like Louisiana have already started clamping down on this practice.

    In such a situation, when all doors to safe abortions close, preventing pregnancies at all cost becomes the only viable option for many.

    Expand
  3. 3. Will Demand for Emeregency Contraceptive pills Go Up?

    They're already up.

    According to several reports coming out of the US, in the face of uncertainities and fear, people are stockpiling emergency contraceptive pills, especially in the states where abortion has already been banned.

    But, the thing is, emergency pills are meant to be used for emergencies only, and are not recommended for frequent or long term use.

    Speaking to FIT for a previous story, Dr Deepa Dewan, Associate Director & Head of Unit, Obstetrics And Gynaecology, said, "Emergency pills are called ‘emergency’ for a reason."

    "They have a very high dose of hormones and are only meant to be used as a backup in cases of emergency."
    Dr Deepa Dewan, Associate Director & Head of Unit, Obstetrics And Gynaecology

    According to the American College of Obstreticians and Gynaecologists, some side effects include,

    • Irregular periods

    • Headache

    • Nausea and vomiting

    • Breast tenderness

    • Abdominal pain

    • Dizziness

    • Fatigue

    As many have pointed out, banning abortions don't put an end to abortions, rather puts an end to safe abortions.

    As options for safe and supervised abortions shrink, people with uteruses are likely to panic and take matters into their own hands, and forced to look for alternatives without the medical guidance that can ensure their safety .

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Emergency Contraceptive Pills: Where the Law Stands

The Supreme Court ruling to strike down Roe v Wade leaves it up to the states to decide the legality of abortions within their states, however it doesn't in itself extend to abortion or contraceptive pills.

Abortion pills have, however, been outlawed in many states, and experts fear the same arguments could apply to emergency contraceptives, or ''morning-after pills, and even contraceptive tools like IUDs that not only prevent fertilisation, but also sometimes prevent a fertilised embryo from attaching to the uterus.

Post the ruling, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas opined that other substantive rights including the right to access to contraceptives, including the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which guarantees access to contraceptives, should be reconsidered.

Despite the false equavalence that some are drawing, let's make it clear, contraception is not the same as abortion.

"We can't speculate right now about the impact of the decision on emergency contraception use, but it is important to note that emergency contraception does not cause abortions," a representative of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists tells FIT.

"It is helpful at preventing a pregnancy but will not end one," she adds.

ADVERTISEMENT

How are Emergency Pills Different From Abortion Pills?

Let's break it down.

Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancies, or at best, reduces the chance of getting pregnant.

These are meant to be taken after unprotected sex, or if you're not completely sure your contraceptive will work - having a condom break or spill off, forgetting to take your birth control.

It must be underscored though, that once pregnant, this pill doesn't work.

Abortion pills on the other hand are meant to terminate pregnancies by inducing a miscarriage.

Two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol are taken for this.

  • The first pill is mifepristone, which blocks a hormone known as progesterone that the body needs for a pregnancy to continue.

  • The second drug, misoprostol, is taken 24 to 48 hours later. This medication causes cramping and bleeding and empties the uterus.

The Food and Drug Administration recently dropped the requirement for a medical professional to dispense the medicine in person, "because of the robust data that showed that medication abortion could be safety and effectively utilized without in-person dispensing, making medication abortion available through telehealth," according to the ACOG.

"Evidence also indicates that people can safely carry out a medication abortion without direct doctor supervision when they have access to accurate information, reliable medications, and support if a rare complication arises."
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Online sales of abortion pills via telemedicine have, in fact, gone up during the pandemic.

However, many women now fear telemedicine platforms and period tracking apps are collecting their data that can be used against them.

Many women in states where abortion pills are banned also rely on shipping them from other states. However, some states like Louisiana have already started clamping down on this practice.

In such a situation, when all doors to safe abortions close, preventing pregnancies at all cost becomes the only viable option for many.

ADVERTISEMENT

Will Demand for Emeregency Contraceptive pills Go Up?

They're already up.

According to several reports coming out of the US, in the face of uncertainities and fear, people are stockpiling emergency contraceptive pills, especially in the states where abortion has already been banned.

But, the thing is, emergency pills are meant to be used for emergencies only, and are not recommended for frequent or long term use.

Speaking to FIT for a previous story, Dr Deepa Dewan, Associate Director & Head of Unit, Obstetrics And Gynaecology, said, "Emergency pills are called ‘emergency’ for a reason."

"They have a very high dose of hormones and are only meant to be used as a backup in cases of emergency."
Dr Deepa Dewan, Associate Director & Head of Unit, Obstetrics And Gynaecology

According to the American College of Obstreticians and Gynaecologists, some side effects include,

  • Irregular periods

  • Headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Breast tenderness

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

As many have pointed out, banning abortions don't put an end to abortions, rather puts an end to safe abortions.

As options for safe and supervised abortions shrink, people with uteruses are likely to panic and take matters into their own hands, and forced to look for alternatives without the medical guidance that can ensure their safety .

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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