More than a dozen people protested outside Harris Teeter in Ballston this morning (Monday), urging the grocery store to make it easier to access a form of emergency contraception.
Protestors gathered near the store at 600 N. Glebe Road just after 10 a.m. holding signs and chanting, urging the grocery store to put Plan B One Step on its shelves. Currently, customers must pick up a card on the shelf for Plan B and take it to either a pharmacist or store manager to redeem it.
Plan B is a time-sensitive medication to prevent unintended pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but the sooner it can be taken, the more effective it is.
The protest was organized by Reproaction, a direct action group formed two years ago to help increase access to abortion and reproductive justice: the right to parent, the right not to parent and the right to raise children in safe and healthy communities.
“For over four years, the FDA has authorized emergency contraception to be sold on the shelf to anyone regardless of age or gender,” Erin Matson, co-director of Reproaction, said. “You pick it up off the shelf the way you do Tylenol. What Harris Teeter does is asinine.”
For others protesting, it was a chance to stand up for the rights of immigrants and the LGBTQ community, who are able to access such contraception easier than other types requiring identification.
“Plan B is something we have fought for so we don’t have any barriers for it,” Alejandra Pablos of the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network said. “It’s very important when you think about all the immigrant people, the trans people from the LGBTQ community having Plan B accessible to you without ID, without that barrier is super important.”
And Shireen Shakouri, another protestor, said she came to protest after some difficult experiences in the grocery store.
“When I was younger, trawling through the aisle that had sexual health products, I was often followed,” she said. “I don’t need that policing now, I didn’t need it then and I’m here to speak out against it.
Matson said Monday’s action is part of a wider push against the grocery store’s policy, timed to coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We’re kicking off our campaign to make HT put emergency contraception on the shelf where it belongs at the beginning of the holiday season on purpose,” she said. “This is a time when shoppers are busy and coming over here, and we wanted to make sure we got the word out and make this change happen.”
For its part, Harris Teeter said in a statement posted on news website Rewire last year that the product must be sold by a pharmacy associate or store manager, as they are certified under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
More than a dozen protestors in Ballston calling on Harris Teeter to sell Plan B One Step emergency contraception on the shelf, not from a pharmacist. pic.twitter.com/9CXFVhFtJS
— Chris Teale (@chris_teale) November 20, 2017