How to get the morning-after pill or abortion medication

(NerdWallet) – Would you be able to quickly grab a contraceptive pill or abortion pill if needed? Millions of healthcare consumers have turned to this question following the US Supreme Court decision to throw down Roe v. Wade.

Much depends on your access to reproductive care, from your health to your life prospects. “People need tools to help them achieve reproductive autonomy,” says Ushma Upadhyay, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California San Francisco. “When people have access to abortion, they are more likely to set and achieve life goals.”

In particular, obtaining and using medical abortions can be as complex as the laws of 50 states. Luckily for those looking to avoid or terminate an unplanned pregnancy, reproductive rights advocates offer valuable services and resources – and update them regularly. Armed with basic knowledge, you will feel more confident navigating the process.

Emergency contraception: avoiding pregnancy after unprotected sex

Emergency contraceptives or the morning-after pill work by preventing ovulation. These oral medications prevent pregnancy about 80% to 90% of the time if taken within a few days of unprotected sexual activity.

This oral medication typically costs between $10 and $50, plus the cost of a doctor’s visit if you opt for a prescription pill. “If you have private insurance or Medicaid, there’s a good chance you can get free or low-cost emergency contraception,” says Megan Freeland, PharmD, director of health communications at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Over-the-counter medicines

“Anyone of any age and gender can buy emergency contraception over the counter without a prescription,” says Freeland. Plan B and other over-the-counter emergency contraceptives with levonorgestrel as the main ingredient are most effective when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual activity.

Prescription drugs

Ella, a prescription morning-after pill, may be a better choice for people who don’t take emergency contraception until four or five days after sex, or who weigh between 165 and 195 pounds. Ella can be more effective than levonorgestrel-based pills in these cases and reduces the chance of conceiving by 85%, according to Planned Parenthood Direct. It is best to discuss the choice of contraceptive with your doctor.

Ensuring timely and safe access

You’ll get better rest if you keep a morning-after pill in your medicine cabinet, just in case. Buying in advance also allows you to buy the best deal instead of having to pay whatever it takes at the last minute

“It’s so important to start using emergency contraception as soon as possible after unprotected sex,” says Freeland. “So get it before you need it. If you need Ella, remember that it may take time to get a prescription.”

Although emergency contraception is available statewide, a handful of states allow pharmacies or individual pharmacists to refuse to sell these drugs. So check local availability now. If you’re having trouble getting the drug, order it from a reputable online source like Planned Parenthood.

Medical abortion: Termination of a pregnancy without surgery

Abortion pills (actually two pills taken separately) are not the same as emergency contraception pills; they are different medicines intended for different situations and they are affected by the recent decision of the Supreme Court.

While the emergency contraceptive pill is only effective within three or five days after intercourse, abortion pills are effective up to about 11 weeks into pregnancy. Like surgical abortion, medical abortion is considered low-risk and is preferred by some people for practical or personal reasons. Medical abortion requires a prescription and requires an in-person or virtual visit to a healthcare provider.

There are many state differences in access to abortion, including medical abortion. Some states have outright bans with few or no exceptions. Some states restrict abortion based on how long you’ve been pregnant; Some prohibit public funding or impose wait times, which can become particularly expensive if you have to travel to get medicine and care.

What do medications cost for abortions

A medical abortion is usually almost as expensive as a surgical abortion. In 2021, the average cost for U.S. patients paying entirely out of pocket was $568 for medical abortions, $625 for first trimester surgical abortions, and $775 for second trimester surgical abortions, according to a study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.

Insurance coverage for abortion pills is inconsistent

Insurance provided by an employer or purchased through a health insurance exchange may or may not cover abortion services, including medical abortion. Ask your insurer what your policy covers; If you cannot obtain or use abortion drugs in your home state, also ask about coverage for the state through which you would receive benefits.

Medicaid covers all or most “medically necessary abortions” in only about 16 states. Ask your state’s Medicaid office whether abortion is covered and, if so, what restrictions might apply.

Online guides can help you get information and medication

Traveling to another state for an abortion is likely to be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Be aware that an interstate abortion—whether through medication or surgery—may be illegal for residents of your home state.

However, many services are available to help people deal with the medical, financial, logistical, and legal challenges of obtaining and using abortion pills safely. Here are some resources:

  • There is at least one Planned Parenthood Health Center in every state and in the District of Columbia. Many clinics that have been barred by their states from performing medical abortions or surgical abortions still offer valuable information and advice, as well as contraceptive treatments.
  • Abortion Finder and Ineedana can help you find an abortion provider near you, although some people may have to travel hundreds of miles.
  • The National Abortion Federation’s Hotline Fund provides abortion referrals and financial assistance.
  • Some abortion information providers describe policies that may be illegal in your state. The Repro Legal Helpline offers legal advice on self-performed medical abortions.
  • The National Network of Abortion Funds provides information on local and national organizations that provide financial and logistical support for abortion services, travel, and related expenses.

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