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It Takes Two to Tango

Brigitte Amiri,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
Harriett Johnson,
ACLU of Mississippi
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July 8, 2010

Couples who share responsibility for making healthy decisions about their birth control methods should be supported. That’s why we were deeply concerned when men who sought to purchase emergency contraception for their female partners were turned away by pharmacists at Walgreens in Texas and Mississippi. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved emergency contraception for sale behind the pharmacy counter for men and women ages 17 and older. Time is of the essence when accessing emergency contraception. Experts stress that emergency contraception is most effective the sooner a woman takes it, and its effectiveness decreases every 12 hours. It is therefore crucial that a customer can get access to emergency contraception as soon as it is needed. A couple who is trying to quickly access emergency contraception to prevent an unintended pregnancy should be supported by the pharmacy, not shunned.

Luckily, Walgreens’ headquarters agreed. In response to our letters to them detailing these complaints, Walgreens recently issued a bulletin to all of their pharmacies nationwide instructing them that emergency contraception can be sold to “male and female customers age 17 and older.” The bulletin also said that a male customer who asks to purchase emergency contraception need not be “accompanied by a female, and does not need to identify the individual for whom he is purchasing the product.” This policy tracks the FDA’s guidelines for distribution of emergency contraception.

We applaud the men and women who contacted us and stood up for their rights to ensure that this doesn’t happen to other couples. We also applaud Walgreens for making explicitly clear that emergency contraception must be sold to men. However, we remain concerned that these incidents were not isolated. In fact, we are investigating another drug store chain whose pharmacy refused to sell emergency contraception to men. We hope Walgreens will be the model for pharmacies across the country. But if you are denied emergency contraception we urge you too to stand up for your rights and contact us.