The phrase "Plan B" is the brand name for emergency contraception (EC) in the U.S. The pill itself contains the same hormone found in regular birth control pills (progestin).
Plan B can be taken up to five days after intercourse, but is more effective the sooner a woman uses it; it can reduce her chances of pregnancy by 75-90%.
Plan B does not protect against STDs.
Plan B is NOT the same as RU-486. It is NOT an abortion pill; Plan B will not work if a woman is already pregnant.
The makers of Plan B have said that it will be available over-the-counter by the end of 2006, but they have not set an exact date; as of now, women can receive Plan B with a prescription from their doctor or (in Massachusetts) through a specially trained pharmacist.
On Men & EC:
Last week, a representative from the Massachusetts EC network came to Tufts and held an informal workshop on EC (what it is, where to get it, etc). The workshop drew twentyish women but only ONE man (a Daily reporter, at that!). Given that birth control affects both men AND women, why aren't men on campus interested in learning about Plan B? Do they know that in the future, they'll be able to purchase Plan B for their girlfriend/lover/one night stand?
The Politics of Plan B:
In 2003, the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory and Nonprescription Drugs Panels voted 23-4 to recommend over-the-counter status for Plan B, yet it took THREE YEARS of political meandering to get Plan B fully approved as an over-the-counter medication; even with this approval, Plan B only available over-the-counter to women and men 18 years of age or older. Teen girls still need a prescription—even though Plan B is just as safe and effective for them as any woman over 18! Further, the age restriction means that 18+ women who want Plan B have to ask for it at the pharmacy counter (instead of grabbing it from an aisle, as you do with condoms) and show ID to prove that they are over 18.