Emergency Contraception

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What you need to know: Emergency contraception (EC)

Sometimes called the morning-after pill, Plan B or EC, emergency contraception can keep you from getting pregnant if your condom broke or if you didn’t use any birth control during sex. Emergency contraception only works during the first five days after having unprotected sex – and the sooner you take it, the more likely it is to work.

In California, you can buy most emergency contraception from a pharmacy without a prescription and without proving your age. You can buy most emergency contraception regardless of how old you are. You may have to ask for it at the pharmacy counter. Some emergency contraception, “Ella,” is prescription-only.

You also don’t need to wait until an emergency to purchase it. Consider having 1 or 2 packs of emergency contraception on hand. Many people purchase emergency contraception ahead of time, just in case. The law requires insurance companies to cover FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception, but only with a prescription. If you have private insurance, check with your health care provider and insurance plan to make sure you’re covered and to find out where you can buy EC without paying out of pocket. California also has free or low-cost programs if you want help paying for emergency contraception.

If you are denied emergency contraception by a pharmacist, ask to speak to the manager or other staff member. You can say “It’s my legal right to purchase emergency contraception at your pharmacy. I’d like to speak to another staff member or your manager.” If the pharmacist refuses to give you birth control, write down their name and the name of the pharmacy, and call the ACLU at 415-621-2488.