Reproaction, a reproductive rights group, is fighting to get more stores to stock emergency contraception on the shelf.
“Nobody should have to go on a wild goose chase for basic health care,” Reproaction's co-founder, Erin Matson, told Circa.
In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B One-Step birth control for women of all ages. Unlike Plan B and ella, which require a prescription and have varied age restrictions, Plan B One-Step does not.
Since then, the percentage of stores that stock emergency contraception went up from 49 percent in 2014 to 64 percent in 2015, according to the American Society for Emergency Contraception.
However, despite the FDA loosening restrictions on Plan B One-Step, the administration does not force retailers to sell the product on the shelf, which advocates say is counterproductive.
“When Plan B is not available on the shelf, what we know is that people will sometimes just leave the store and not get the health care that they need," Matson said.
According to the American Society for Emergency Contraception, nearly half of stores that stock emergency contraception lock the product in a portable box or fixed case that must be unlocked by a store employee, which can bring "unwanted and uncomfortable attention to the purchase," thus posing a barrier to access.
"I worry about undocumented people and their access to the product. I worry about gender queer and trans people who are often stigmatized in seeking reproductive health care not having ready access to the product."
"I worry about gender queer and trans people who are often stigmatized in seeking reproductive health care not having ready access to the product."
Matson was shopping for diapers for her daughter at a local Harris Teeter grocery store one day when she noticed a stack of cards on a shelf where Plan B One-Step was supposed to be.
In a direct message between Matson and Harris Teeter on Twitter obtained by Circa, Matson was told it is the company's practice to have customers go to the pharmacy or a member of management, "because they are all HIPPA (Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act) certified."
The Communication Manager for Harris Teeter emailed Circa the following statement:
- "Harris Teeter prides itself on providing our shoppers with the best shopping experience. To best serve our shoppers and meet their immediate needs, we advertise the product on the shelf with clear directions as to where the shopper can obtain the item -- in our pharmacy and non-pharmacy stores. This is in line with many other grocery retailer policies."
Kroger, which bought Harris Teeter in 2013, did not return Circa’s request for comment.