Ever since President Donald Trump won the election, women have been justifiably concerned about their access to affordable birth control. The president has been very vocal about his intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act and ratify a Republican-written American Health Care Act, which means rolling back protections that require employers and insurance companies to cover contraception. If passed, women might be forced to pay out of pocket for birth control — but what about emergency contraception? Will women be able to purchase Plan B if AHCA passes? There are a few things to consider.
If the AHCA passes, it's likely that insurance won't cover the morning after pill, though some insurance companies weren't required to cover over-the-counter contraception anyway. So under the ACA some people still had to haggle with a pharmacist or get a prescription from a clinic if they expected it to be covered by insurance.
The thing to worry about with the AHCA is that, although all forms of contraception will still be floating around, it could end up being so expensive to purchase them that it could be prohibitive. Right now, you can get Plan B for $50 anywhere, without a prescription and despite age.
Prescription emergency contraception is also available at clinics like Planned Parenthood or your OB-GYN if you can manage to get an appointment in the window that the pill is effective. There's also a website that sells $20 generic emergency contraception, or you can get Plan B on Amazon. You have to have this shipped, so it's not meant to be used in an emergency, but you can stock up in advance if you're worried about access later on.
Given that the GOP is currently fighting against women's reproductive rights on a few fronts, there could theoretically be specific clauses that would make emergency contraception prescription-only again, or place age restrictions on over the counter sales. But that would be going against a 2013 ruling from a U.S. District Court in New York to the Food and Drug Administration, ordering them to approve Plan B and its generics for over the counter sales, without age restrictions. In other words, it would be difficult to take away, but not impossible.
The AHCA would also give states a lot of power to decide what can be covered by insurance and what could not. Recently, very restrictive abortion bills were passed in Ohio and Texas. Emergency contraception is not in any way abortion, but anti-choice legislators often confuse the two. (The morning after pill actually reduces the need for abortion by preventing unwanted pregnancy.) Already, there are six states that allow pharmacists to refuse to administer emergency contraception.
Although emergency contraception is available, $50 is not easy for some women to come up with at all, which is why it was important that the ACA required all insurance companies to cover birth control and also fully fund Medicaid, so that lower income women could go to a doctor or Planned Parenthood. Any version of a Republican health care bill would not do that. So lower income women and young women would be affected the most.
Luckily, the ACA is still the law of the land and, although the Senate is working on its own version of the AHCA that passed in the House of Representatives in May, nothing is official yet. There's still time to call your representatives and senators and fight for the inclusion of all forms of birth control for women. Or stock up on your own stash just so you have it (it doesn't expire quickly). Because you never know when the GOP will be coming for your reproductive rights next.