Amazon, Rite Aid limit purchases of emergency contraceptives

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is limiting the number of emergency contraceptives consumers can buy, joining other retailers following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade have introduced similar caps.

Amazon’s limit, which temporarily limits purchases of the contraceptives to three units per week, went into effect on Monday, a spokesman for the e-commerce giant confirmed to The Associated Press. The company didn’t share any further details on which emergency contraceptive products were restricted for purchase, but a listing showed the upper limit for Plan B, the popular morning-after pill.

A similar policy went into effect Monday at drugstore chain Rite Aid, which has limited purchases of Plan B pills to three units per customer due to increased demand, a company spokesman said. The limit applies to both in-store and online purchases.

Emergency contraception is different from the abortion pill used to terminate a pregnancy. Plan B, available without a prescription, contains a concentrated dose of the same drug found in many regular birth control pills. If a woman takes Plan B within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, she can significantly reduce the risk of pregnancy.

Emergency contraception has been attacked by some anti-abortionists who believe life begins when an egg is fertilized. The federally approved label says it can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. However, researchers from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have said that this effect is unlikely to occur.

A major chain of hospitals in Missouri briefly stopped providing Plan B due to confusion over whether the state’s ban on abortion could put doctors at risk of prosecution for providing it. However, St. Luke’s Health Kansas City said Wednesday it would resume offering the drug.

Limiting purchases by retailers is a common practice that helps retailers prevent stocking and reselling at higher prices.

‚ÄúRetailers are cautious. They’re trying to manage it,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. “But I don’t think there are chronic bottlenecks.”

Walmart, Amazon’s main competitor, has capped Plan B’s online purchases at 10 units, though it’s unclear when the purchase limit began. The retailer currently has no in-store restrictions, but managers can make changes to ensure availability based on demand.

“Many of our products have online purchase limits,” said a Walmart spokesman. “In times of fluctuating demand, these limits may change.”

Meanwhile, CVS Health said it has lifted its own emergency contraceptive caps after imposing a temporary limit following Friday’s Supreme Court ruling. The company said it was trying to gain access to the products after a “sharp surge” in sales, which have since returned to normal levels.

“We continue to have an adequate supply of emergency contraceptives to meet customer needs,” said Matthew Blanchette, spokesman for CVS Health.

Pharmacy chain Walgreens continues to be able to meet demand for in-store shopping and curbside pickup of over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills. However, spokeswoman Emily Mekstan said the company is replenishing its ship-to-home business, which has seen a surge in demand. CVS Health and Walgreens are the two largest US drugstore chains. Together they operate around 19,000 locations.

Target and Kroger spokesmen said they had nothing to say about potential restrictions on contraceptive purchases.

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AP writers Anne D’Innocenzio in New York and Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.