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EMERGENCY

A bunch of men are about to make a fortune on Plan B

A Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive box
Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
Legal, for now
Published Last updated

Since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, doing away with the constitutional protection of abortion, American women are literally turning to Plan B.

The most popular brand of the morning-after pill—a medication that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse—is flying off the shelves. Large pharmacy chains such as CVS and Rite Aid have already resorted to rationing supplies, limiting purchases to three per person.

Levonorgestrel, the main ingredient of Plan B, is a drug that prevents pregnancy by making the uterus inhospitable to embryo implantation. It is available to anyone without a prescription across the US. Several companies sell the drug in the US, for prices that range from $10 to $50 apiece, but Plan B has the largest market share and is a de-facto synonym for the morning-after pill. That means the removal of abortion rights has been a boon for Plan B’s manufacturer, Foundation Consumer Healthcare, and its main investors—all of which happen to be men (or were until yesterday, when a woman was added to one of the teams following a New York Times story).

Foundation Consumer Healthcare is backed by two private-equity firms, Juggernaut and Kelso. Juggernaut’s team overseeing the investment is comprised of three men. Kelos’s was, too, until this week. (Kelso didn’t reply to Quartz’s request for comment).

Both firms could reap significant profits if the demand for the drug continues its current trends, and people in states where access to abortion is curtailed resort to the morning-after pill more frequently. The increase in popularity could also be linked to fear that legislators in states banning abortion might try to ban levonorgestrel, as well, likening it to an abortion procedure.

Is emergency contraception legal in states that ban abortion?

Levonorgestrel is referred to as emergency contraception, yet unlike the pill or condoms, it doesn’t work by preventing fertilization. Instead, it stops the embryo from successfully implanting. This could make it illegal in the 15 states that ban abortion since conception (and the 5 more that are working on laws to ban it). A similar issue might come up for intrauterine devices (IUDs), which similarly prevent embryo implantation, technically intervening after conception.

Currently, Plan B and IUDs are available in every state, but vague laws are already causing confusion, particularly as providers don’t want to risk the penalties established for abortion. For instance, Saint Luke’s Health System, a large healthcare provider and pharmacy network in Missouri, halted the sale of emergency contraception until reassurance that it was not breaking the abortion law.

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