With abortion access becoming more limited throughout the US, demand has spiked for emergency contraceptive pills that can help prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after sex. This week, in an effort to maintain supply, Amazon joined retailers like CVS and Walmart by placing temporary limits on the number of “morning-after pills” that can be purchased.
CNBC reports that Amazon customers will be capped at a maximum purchase of three units each week of emergency contraceptive brands like Plan B, which is the most widely available option. However, if you shop around, you can find “varying quantity limits” for different brands. A generic option like My Choice can still be purchased in higher quantities, up to 30 units at once.
At CVS, temporary limits are no longer in place because demand dipped back down to normal levels. Walmart said that purchase limits can fluctuate with demand in its online stores, but the company has no policy to limit sales of emergency contraceptive pills.
Unlike abortion pills—medically prescribed drugs used as an alternative to surgical abortions—emergency contraceptive pills prevent a pregnancy from starting. CNBC notes that the pills “typically work by stopping the release of an egg from the ovaries, preventing a sperm from fertilizing an egg, or, if fertilization has already occurred, stopping a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.”
Many “morning-after pill” brands require one dose, and most require no prescription. According to MarketWatch, Google searches for Plan B grew by “more than 5,000 percent” immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked. Many were concerned that after the restrictions on abortion access, emergency contraceptive access would also be threatened. Soon, searches for “Is Plan B going to be illegal” also rose, by 1,500 percent.
In a statement to CNBC, Amazon said the cap on morning-after pills would be temporary. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story to clarify any projected timeline to remove the limit.
Part of the rush to purchase emergency contraceptive pills is driven by the fear that there will be shortages. CVS told CBS News that this is not the case in their stores. Instead, the limit has been placed to ensure equitable access. It’s a way for the company to maintain stock for those in need of morning-after pills now—not just those stocking up on emergency supplies.