Many view the morning-after pill as a female issue. However, since potential fertilization and subsequent upbringing of a child are a shared responsibility between mother and father, wouldn’t it only make sense that the distribution of Plan B also be a male issue. Think again. A recent study found that one in five men were not even able to simply purchase the pill. With the recently lifted age restrictions on the pill’s sale, is this number likely to change?

The study was carried out by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center. The researchers sent out men between the ages of 19 and 28 to 158 different pharmacies in New York City with the sole goal of acquiring the morning-after pill. Of the 158 pharmacies in the Washington Heights, East Harlem, and Upper East Side neighborhoods, a total of 81 percent actually had the pill in stock when asked, the NY Daily News reported.

Results showed pharmacists were clearly reluctant to hand over the ovulation-blocking pill to the young men. Of the 158 pharmacies, 30 did not sell Plan B to the men. The reason for not selling the pill to the men varied, with 30 percent requesting that the female be physically present, some wanting to at least see her ID card, and 27 percent simply not having the product in stock.

According to Dr. David Bell, an associate professor at Columbia University Medical Center, the pharmacists' hesitation and refusal to sell men the morning-after pill was probably done with the best intentions in mind. Bell told the Daily News that, at the time the experiment was done, there was an age restriction on the pill’s use. Pharmacists were most likely taking extra precaution to ensure that the medicine was not being administered to underage females. Last year, the pill’s age restriction was lifted and, currently, Plan B is available for all women.

The age restriction lift means that, legally, there should not be anything preventing a pharmacist from selling emergency contraception to men. At the end of the day, however, the decision to sell certain medication to customers is up to the pharmacist's own discretion, regardless of any legal standing.

Some pharmacists may still believe that withholding the sale of Plan B to men is still a necessary precaution to protect the unrepresented female. “Five out of five men should be denied it,” Áine MacGrory, a registered pharmacist currently working in the Republic of Ireland, explained to Medical Daily. “You have to make sure that the woman you are giving the pill to is taking it of her own free will and hasn’t been a victim of sexual assault.” Bell’s opinion reflected MacGrory’s. “The request may have been a covert way to determine the presence or lack of coercion in a relationship," Bell said a press release.

Unfortunately, the pharmacists bring up a valid point. Men forcing women to take emergency contraception is “all too common,” according to Dr. Brian Clowes, director of researcher and education at Human Life International. “With Plan B being sold over the counter, we can expect more of these types of stories,” Clowes told LifeSiteNews.

Along with ensuring that a female isn’t being forced to take the medication, MacGrory also highlighted the fact that there are still a number of important medical questions pharmacists must ask the female before prescribing her the medicine. “You need to know what stage of her cycle she is in, when her last period was. … The guy is most likely not going to know any of that.”

What’s far more alarming than the men not being sold the morning-after pill is the fact that a large percentage of men in the study reported being given misleading information on the pill’s effects. Some were told that the pill could lead to birth defects, while others were told of the dangers of “spontaneous abortions.” Also a handful of pharmacists failed to give the correct dosage of the medication.

Source: Bell DL, Camacho EJ, Velasquez AB. Male access to emergency contraception in pharmacies: a mystery shopper survey. Contraception Journal. 2014.