business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "some of the nation’s biggest retailers are rationing over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills as demand spikes following the Supreme Court ruling overturning a constitutional right to abortion.

"CVS Health Corp., Walmart Inc. and Rite Aid Corp. were limiting purchases of the pills, which were in short supply or out of stock Monday morning on major retailer websites. CVS and Rite Aid were limiting purchases to three. Walmart had some pills available without limits, but only in cases where they wouldn’t ship until next month. Pills available this week were limited to four or six.

"A CVS spokesman said that the company has implemented temporary purchase limits to ensure equitable access and that it has ample supply of the pills in stores and online. Rite Aid said it was limiting purchases due to increased demand. Walmart didn’t respond to requests for comment."

The Journal offers some context:

"The pills are often referred to and sold under the Plan B brand without a prescription. Also called morning-after pills, they are designed to be taken up to three days after unprotected sex. The medication mainly works by preventing ovulation and, failing that, may stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

"Plan B pills are different from medication abortion, also known as plan C, which requires a prescription and involves the administration of different pills to terminate a pregnancy. In the U.S., medication abortion has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. Two medications - mifepristone and misoprostol - are typically used in a medication abortion regimen."

KC's View:

Part of the supply issue stems from the fact that there are concerns that some states will follow up abortion bans with even greater regulation that would ban the sale and use of such pills, and so some folks are stocking up just in case - not necessarily for their own use, but for friends and family members who might need them.

For the record, Planned Parenthood has warned against stockpiling - these pills do have an expiration date, and hoarding could prevent women who really need them from having access.

That said, I understand the impulse.  This is just part of the cultural and regulatory minefield in which many retailers are going to find themselves.