Without getting graphic about it, I remember the moment the condom broke.
It was my senior year of college. I felt eerily composed as I drove, later that same night, to campus health services to get the so-called morning-after pill. I can’t believe how calm I was; it’s completely contrary to my personality, but somehow, my brain managed to get quiet and I saw the solution.
The fact that I knew about emergency contraception (EC) was the result of having access to correct information about it — what it is, where I could get it, how it would work. I knew I needed to use it within 72 hours, and that it was safe, effective and readily available. I had no trouble getting it; there were no strange looks, derisive comments or accusations. No “conscience clause” was invoked. I also am white, was over the age of 18 and went to a large university in the Northeast. I was given two pills — one of which I took that night, the other the next day. I don’t remember any significant side effects, and a few weeks later, I got my period.
The stigma around using EC, namely that women who do are careless, slutty, and lazy, must be acknowledged and dispelled, along with the myths about what it does and does not do. EC is used when and if your regular form of birth control fails, not as a form of birth control in itself. It does not terminate a pregnancy. It does not work if you’re already pregnant. It does not protect you from getting a sexually transmitted infection.
An incredible amount of energy is going into limiting access to EC — ironically by the same folks who are working to eradicate reproductive rights altogether. The FDA has made it possible to obtain Plan B, the one-pill emergency contraceptive, over the counter, but only for women 17 and older. You need a government issued ID to get it, which is a bit of a problem if you aren’t a citizen or if you don’t have the money to get one. The thing about EC is that the faster you get it and use it, the better it works, so any delay will impact its effectiveness (and add to the likelihood that you’ll need an abortion).
Today, March 30, is the 10th anniversary of the Back Up Your Birth Control Campaign,, which aims to raise awareness about EC and secure better access to it. On the campaign’s website, you can sign petitions, send informative (and funny!) ecards, and spread the word about safe, attainable contraception.