One Man's (Somewhat Frantic and Almost Failed) Hunt for Emergency Contraceptive

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ev-owa.jpg
Oh, Canada.
One night late last year, Jason Melbourne walked into a CVS pharmacy in Mesquite, hoping against hope to walk out with an emergency contraceptive, or "the morning-after pill." It wasn't the morning after. He and his wife had their "accident" a few days before, and the 72-hour window in which EC is most effective was closing fast. The first four pharmacies he visited had told him they were out of stock.

He was finally referred to a CVS in Mesquite, some 15 miles away. They told him they had just one box left. But when he finally got there, the overnight pharmacist, Minni Matthew, told Melbourne she wasn't going to sell it to him.

In order for him to buy the meds, the pharmacist said, she'd need to talk to and see the ID of his wife, who was at home with their two young children. He asked why, and she pointed to the fine print on the medication's box, which says it can only be sold to someone age 17 or older. Melbourne pointed out that he was well over 17.

"I've bought this plenty of times in my life, and it's never been a problem," he said. "Are you telling me every other place I've bought it from has been wrong?"

Didn't matter, Matthew said, since the medicine obviously wasn't for him.

"Why don't you show me the law that says you can't sell this to a man?" Melbourne replied.

Things devolved from there. Melbourne Googled emergency contraception on his phone and confirmed that there was no law against selling the product to a man. He tried to show his phone to the pharmacist, he says, "but she didn't want to see it."

"You're the only person who has it in the city, and I've driven 15 miles to get here," Melbourne recalls telling her. "My wife is home with our 4-year-old and newborn son. She's breastfeeding. She can't drag my infant child out of the house and down here just to satisfy you."

At that point, Melbourne says, Matthew retreated behind the counter. He shouted after her, "You got a pillow, Minni? Because I'll be here all night. I'm not going anywhere until you show me a law against selling this to men."

A pharmacy technician, who gave his name only as "Robert," jumped in. He let Melbourne know that they don't sell emergency contraception to men because they might be giving it to "rape victims."

By then, Melbourne says, he was starting to "freak out."

"I'm standing in line trying to get something that's already a little controversial, a little embarrassing," he says. "It's for my wife. There are three customers behind me when the guy says that, so it looks like I'm a piece of shit now."

Matthew then tried to tell Melbourne that the real reason he couldn't buy the drug was because it was Plan B, the brand name, and that previously he'd always bought the generic version of the drug.

"What does this have to do with anything? It's the same drug," Melbourne, a full-time student who happens to be entering nursing school in the fall, shot back. He called his wife and put her on the phone with the pharmacist, but that wasn't enough. Melbourne then asked for Matthew to call her supervisor, but the supervisor said no, too. At that point, Melbourne's wife called a nearby Walgreen's, who agreed to sell him the medicine. Melbourne went there, bought it, then promptly filed a complaint with the ACLU for gender discrimination.

Lisa Graybill, the legal director at ACLU of Texas, says that while denying emergency contraception to a man isn't technically illegal, "it's my understanding it's contrary to the FDA guidelines. They say the medication is available to people over the ages of 17." (Update 1/9/12: Graybill adds, via email, "While the question of whether it is illegal to discriminate against men in the sale of emergency contraception has not, to my knowledge, been decided by any Texas court to date, the FDA guidelines make it absolutely clear that EC may be purchased without a prescription by men and women over the age of 17.")

Graybill says that refusing to sell EC to men on the grounds they may give it to minors is "misguided," as she put it after a polite, diplomatic pause. "I'm not aware of a single case of a man reportedly buying it to push on his underage pedophile victim," she says. She's also not aware of men buying EC to force on people they've just raped.

"I don't know where these ideas comes from," she says. "I'm not telling you there's never a case that that's happened, but I'm not aware of any. That's a sensational story that would get coverage if someone was criminally accused of doing that."

The ACLU's been down this road before. They received reports in July of 2010 that Walgreens stores in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma were refusing to sell EC to men. The ACLU called Walgreens out publicly, which seemed to solve the problem.

In an email, CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis insisted to Unfair Park that they've already responded to the incident and appropriately briefed their stores on official company policy.

"CVS/pharmacy's policy is to follow FDA regulations for the sale of emergency contraception, which allows this product to be sold without a prescription to customers who are at least 17 years old, regardless of gender," he wrote. "It is our pharmacists' responsibility to ensure that all customer needs are promptly and completely satisfied. As such, there is no company policy that prevents the sale of emergency contraception to a male customer."

But DeAngelis was referring to a similar incident in Houston, which he called "isolated" (and which our sister paper wrote about just last month). We told him that actually we were talking about the incident in Mesquite. We also informed DeAngelis that we'd spoken with Angela Soto, the store manager of that particular Mesquite CVS. Though she wasn't specifically aware of the incident with Melbourne, she confirmed to us that as she understood it, it's "store policy" not to sell EC to men, "because we have to prove that whoever we sell it to is not any minor person."

We pointed out that Melbourne was over 17. "Well, that's the issue," she replied. "We don't know who he's going to give it to." She said she had also heard that "other stores" won't sell EC to men on the grounds they may give it to women they've just raped.

"Those statements are contrary to our company policy," DeAngelis said when we relayed the manager's response. He said the company would look into it.

"I'm outraged," Melbourne says. "I chased this thing all over town, then I get accused of using this for rape, even after they've talked to my wife on the phone. It makes me feel like a piece of crap."

Graybill says that she "won't contest" that the store's policy, however logically shaky, may come from "a place of genuine concern" about underage girls. But ultimately, she says, "I think there's just a gap in communication from corporate to the people on the line."

"I really want them to be educated," Melbourne says. "I'm tired of having to tell a pharmacist who's in charge of a lot more drugs than that one what she can sell. They need to get it right. They need to do some follow up training. I don't want this crap happening to me again, or to someone else."

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50 comments
MP
MP

So a woman couldn't by EC and give it to a minor??

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends. 

Guest
Guest

I went into this very CVS yesterday to buy some beer. They told me they could only sell beer to women because I might be using the beer to ply an underage woman into having sex with me. And they wanted to prevent that from happening, not because they care about what happens to underage women but because they don't want to be on the news again when I come back tomorrow looking for some Plan B.

Guest
Guest

Of course, they lock up the over-the-counter cold medicine and track who buys it in order to comply with the law. They aren't doing it because they've made a moral (or other) decision to restrict the sale of a certain drug to a certain group of people in conflict with the law.

Guest
Guest

Part of their job is to follow company policy, too.

And to know company policy.

PostSilenceShhh
PostSilenceShhh

Actually, he is entitled to a sale.The Federal Civil Rights Act guarantees all people the right to "full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin."

PostSilenceShhh
PostSilenceShhh

No, I think her point about college education and your batshit reaction to it pretty much validates her point. Yes: having a college education means you're more intelligent and better than people who don't. You are the proof.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

Are you an idiot or something? Gee Dubya Bush was a yankee from Connecticut who liked to pretend he was a cowboy. Texas was a blue state until the Republicans redistricted it. In fact, Perry was a democrat until they redistricted it... funny that!

At any rate, you can keep your derriere in New York, we don't want you here. K, thx, bai!

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

This is why everyone should always double check what they are given, and make sure it is the right thing. Pharmacists are often over-worked and sometimes do make mistakes.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

That is not how pharmacy works. The Texas Board of Pharmacy dictates what can and cannot be sold and in what manner it can or cannot be sold. Plan B can be sold to any person over the age of 17. The pharmacist failed to follow the rules that the Texas Board of Pharmacy puts forth and therefore should be investigated and possibly have her license suspended and/or revoked. It is not the pharmacists' place to make up their own rules.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

RU486 and Plan B are not the same drug. RU486 is not even legal here in the States last time I checked. Maybe something changed since then. Plan B is simply birth control at a higher dose. That's all, nothing more. It does not cause abortions, it prevents an egg from implanting. Once the egg is implanted, it doesn't do anything.

If a pharmacy doesn't stock birth control or Plan B, then I say boycott them. I bet they stock viagra!

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

First of all, it ain't your business what he does. Secondly, maybe his wife can't take birth control, I have known a few girls who it makes them feel like crap or nauseous or depressed, and maybe she can't have an IUD because she's had cysts. So maybe the only form they can use is a condom. Maybe it breaks once in a while. Over the course of years, if all you're using is a condom, you might need it "plenty" of times. But again, it ain't really any of your business now is it?

Half the problem with the world, and it's always been this way, is everyone wants in on their neighbors' business and wants to dictate said business.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

Maybe the condom broke. But what it boils down to, is it ain't any of your damned business why they need it. Nor is it your business as to how responsible they are. That's their problem.

It is the pharmacists job to sell that particular drug to anyone who is over 17 years of age.  Now whether or not that happens is all our businesses. What happens if you need it? Do you want to go into a store and be treated like that? And don't sit up there on your high horse and say that you would never need it because you don't screw up ever. That would be a lie. We are all human and all make mistakes.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

Maybe the woman missed taking her pill. That happens you know. Regardless, this pharmacist failed to follow the Texas Board of Pharmacy's protocol for dispensing legal medication. The pharmacist in question should be made an example of, her license should be suspended, so that other people don't have to go through such BS, and be insulted to boot, to obtain legal medication.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

Plan B is not an "abortion drug". Plan B is simply a double dose of birth control pill. It will have absolutely no effect if the egg has already implanted itself, hence the 72 hour window.

But you are correct, it isn't about him or his wife. It's about a pharmacist not following the Texas Board of Pharmacy's protocol for dispensing drugs. She should have her license suspended. The man should lodge a complaint with them.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

Actually the bible clearly states that life begins when the child draws it's first breath. There is proof of this in Exodus 21:22, where the laws are given, it is a life for a life. But if two men fight and a woman is injured and it causes a miscarriage, then the penalty is monetary, because it is not a life yet.

Until a child can draw it's first breath and live on it's own outside the woman, it is not a life.

aWorldQuiteMad
aWorldQuiteMad

Actually, obesity is a form of malnutrition. There were researchers in the Domincan Republic back in the 1950s who noticed that mothers would come into their clinic with their small children. The children were skin and bones but the women were usually morbidly obese. Of course most mothers would never starve her child to feed herself. It turned out that these women were living on white flour and sugar. At about 20 years of age having subsisted on white flour and sugar, their metabolism failed them and they started gaining weight because their insulin response was broken. Fat storage is hormonal and has little to do with how much is eaten but rather with what is eaten.

mangosmum
mangosmum

It is no one's business what we women do with our bodies. If a woman and her partner decide they don't want to have a pregnancy then shut the hell up and mind your own business. Everyone should stop being the pregnancy police....

RTGolden
RTGolden

DAMMIT!! I've been posting here for all this time trying to earn my libtard badge, and NOW you tell me it's a put-down?  DAMMIT!!

RTGolden
RTGolden

OTC drug and not a narcotic.  Anything else?

Sdames
Sdames

So only a man over 17 can give EC to a minor, but there is no fear that a *woman* over 17 might do the same thing? That's the real source of the discrimination if you ask me. And since when are store policies decided on the potential that a customer could be a rapist? Maybe they should stop selling kitchen knives to people who might be serial killers.

toepher
toepher

wow this comment page devolved - doesn't surprise me - people are morons. 

JackLinks
JackLinks

Question for the Pro-Lifers:If life begins at "The Moment of Conception' who determines "The Moment of Conception?"

Donviti
Donviti

how exactly does a baby zygote vote?  do you think they are pro war?

Donviti
Donviti

I'm ok with 1,000,000 abortions for the record.  Hell, 10,000,000 if need be. 

Donviti
Donviti

shouldn't there be a hiring requirement at a pharmacy?

Sandy Kokch
Sandy Kokch

I know my US cousins hate to take lessons from we Brits, but we have the solution ready for you.

This has happened in the UK and the RPS, the licensing body for pharmacies and pharmacists, simply withdrew the relevant licences to practice from the indivduals concerned and suspended the pharmacy licence till the matter was resolved. The christians involved went to court and sued for anti-religious prejudice, and the case was thrown out of court. A muslim pharmacist later did the same thing, and also lost his case.

In the UK we dont let the god botherers circumvent our laws, and "faith" is not a valid defence for bigotry. And when the shabby holier than thou goons cry foul, senior churchmen like the Bishop of Bradford stand up and call them out for their "we are being persecuted" lies and nonsense.

The UK is by no means a utopia, but at least we make sure the god botherers abide by our laws.

TheRealEdwin
TheRealEdwin

This happened to me at the CVS on US1 in Dania Beach, FL and in Coral Gables, FL near Unity Blvd and US1.

Sttbs73
Sttbs73

They should have started with anti-abortion haters like YOU! It must be nice to be so perfect like you and little Ricky Santorum

sengroo
sengroo

That actually looks like it might just work. Wow.www.Total-Privacy dot US

Paul Julian Gould
Paul Julian Gould

There's always been a right and wrong... I just think my fellow inhabitants of this nation are finding out for a fact that there's one hell of a lot of gray between the two... and they ain't happy about that fact.

Marni Zollinger
Marni Zollinger

Some women don't tolerate drugs well, and there are devices that can go awry.  I wouldn't question why this responsible and respectable family has needed to use this, I'm just glad that they have it available when needed.

Marni Zollinger
Marni Zollinger

The point of Plan B is to make sure that no pregnancy results. It is the most responsible thing to do if sex was somehow not as protected as thought (as a married with 4, I can say that sometimes good plans, devices or drugs even don't work as advertized, with a little help from the imps of circumstance).

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I'd prefer you don't either based on some of your comments.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Controlling the access to it doesn't give the store employee the right to judge someone who asks to buy it. If I want Sudafed they damn well better to sell it to me, whether I have a cold or want to attempt to make a really small batch of meth or because I think it will make me plants grow faster--whatever the reason may be, a CVS employee is not law enforcement.

miguel
miguel

We've heard all about you New Yorkers too. There isn't much time left in the day for you to kidnap a Jewish boy off the street, dismember him and stuff the body parts in your fridge. So run along now. Thanks though for "interjecting conjectures and assumptions" about us all.

miguel
miguel

The husband is a dumbass. You sound even dumber.

miguel
miguel

Apparently it was a surprise to the couple as they didn't keep any contraceptives handy. CR-ZAY!

miguel
miguel

The developers of the drug state: "Plan B is not intended for use as a routine form of birth control and should not be used in this manner. Talk with your doctor about the many forms of birth control available"

miguel
miguel

I did the research: "Levonorgestrel can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use Plan B without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby."

miguel
miguel

'As the father of two daughters I think that it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over the counter medicine,' Obama said, 'and as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision (on December 6, 2011) was she could not be confident that a ten-year-old or an eleven-year-old going to a drug store should be able - alongside bubblegum or batteries - be able to buy a medication (Plan B and Plan B One-Step) that potentially if not used properly could end up having an adverse effect.'

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

Erika Johnson
Erika Johnson

Except using plan-b is not illegal or immoral and cooking meth is.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

He put his business in the news, not us.  So yeah, about being in someone elses business, notsomuch buddy.  Are you his brother?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

it must break a lot since he has done this, in his own words, "many time before."  And if she forgot to take her pill, why didnt she pill bomb herself, its the same thing as getting this EC from the pharmacy.  And I wouldnt make a scene like that in the store, Id calmy get the employees name and move on to the next store, and make nice little call to corporate.  But everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame and some free money in a lawsuit these days.  You are right, we all make mistakes, some just seem to make a lot more/bigger ones than others. 

momma
momma

If she is breastfeeding, she can't take the pill.  It would dry her milk up.  It is better for the baby to breast feed.

Bob B
Bob B

They have no (censored) clue. They're just pulling that one out of their ass. It's the religious zealots trying to push "life begins at conception" so they can get more and more restrictive abortion laws passed..

even though the bible says that the baby needs to take its first breath. D'oh! Loophole, and they're carefully tiptoeing around Exodus 21:22 as well now.. *eyeroll*

miguel
miguel

Also: "Plan B is not intended for use as a routine form of birth control and should not be used in this manner. Talk with your doctor about the many forms of birth control available."

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

And your point is? He's over 17. Therefore, he can buy it. But feel free to cut and paste more irrelevant content.

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