Today is the Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action!
The Back Up Your Birth Control campaign focuses on increasing awareness of and accessibility to emergency contraception (EC). It's important to get the right information out there about EC. It is NOT the abortion pill. It is NOT dangerous. It is NOT 100% effective (no form of contraception is).
It always amazes me how little some women know about EC and how it works. In college I was the Women's Studies Major, well of reproductive health information, so people always came (some still come) to me with their questions. I'm going to put that hat on right now and provide a little 411 for those reading who don't know:
You use EC, also known as the morning-after pill or Plan B, up to 3-5 days after you've had unprotected sex in order to prevent a pregnancy. The sooner you take it after intercourse, the better. It basically works like amped up birth control -- it uses hormones to stop fertilization or implantation. Because of this, it doesn't actually stop a pregnancy if it's already happened. You should take a pregnancy test before you get the EC because it'll be useless to take it if you're already pregnant. I repeat, it is NOT the abortion pill. The side-effects are similar to what you'd experience taking the pill, perhaps a bit more intense depending on your body and the hormone levels you're used to.
Currently in the U.S., EC is available over the counter if you're over 18 -- YAAAAY! For the time being, those under 18 need to have a prescription, but the age is being pushed down to 17 and the courts are asking the FDA to consider removing the age restrictions. (You can take action to make that happen here.) ETA: There are other barriers to access that you can read about here (PDF), including cost, coverage, supply, etc.
So there's your education for the day. If you have any other questions, you can ask them in the comments or email me.
Head on down to the pharmacy and stock up on EC. Go with your friends and have them do the same. And keep a stash handy so you can help somebody out when there's an emergency.
(Cross-posted at The Feminist Underground.)