Breanna Reeves |
Roughly 19 million women of “reproductive age” who live in the U.S. are in need of publicly funded contraception and lack access to full service health centers, according to Power to Decide, a nonprofit organization that advocates to reduce teen pregnancy.
Since the overturning of Roe last June, access to reproductive services has been severely reduced across the nation. According to Power to Decide, there are 1,190,830 women in need who live in counties without access to a single health center that provides the full range of methods which includes intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants and other FDA-approved methods such as birth control pills and emergency contraception on site.
In California, there are approximately 1,100 health centers across the state and a total of 8.3 million women aged 13-44 years old, but nearly 2.6 million women in need live in contraceptive deserts.
But one brand is hoping to make emergency contraceptives (EC) more accessible to communities in need. Julie, a new FDA-approved emergency contraceptive brand, sets out to change the conversation about reproductive health by dispelling myths about EC and eliminating the shame and stigma that often accompany the topic of emergency contraception.
Co-founded by Amanda E/J Morrison, the founder of Mented Cosmetics, Julie joins Plan B as one of the few over-the-counter (OTC) emergency contraceptives sold in retail stores. The FDA first approved OTC emergency contraceptives in 2006 for women 18 years and older. In 2013, the FDA approved the use of OTC products for women of all ages without a prescription. Julie can be purchased at Walmart for about $42 and comes in vibrant packaging with bright colors.
Black Voice News spoke with Morrison about Julie, what inspired her to launch the brand and what impact Julie will have on communities of color.
BVN: What encouraged or influenced you and your co-founders to develop Julie?
A: I love this question because this is our big kind of “aha” moment, if you will. So, my first startup was a company called Mented Cosmetics that my co-founder and I started, because we didn’t feel like the voices of women of color were being addressed in beauty — that they were the afterthought. And what we wanted to do was not only give them products, but give them voice and community within beauty. My co-founders, Brian Bordainick and Julie Schott started a brand called Starface. Starface is more than just pimple patches. Starface is about giving the next generation a different way to think about acne and community around it and reducing the shame. And so we all got together to think about what was the impact we wanted to make next.
It was very clear we were all interested in women’s health. And so we thought, “let’s take our learnings from beauty and apply that to women’s health” and think about how we could tell a different story for the next generation. How could we bring voice and community to the areas of shame within women’s health? Our belief is that if we do that, well, we can change the face and narrative of women’s health, and that will be the biggest impact we could make.
BVN: Julie is one of few emergency contraception brands to be available over the counter, with no prescription needed. What impact will this have on underserved communities?
A: Our belief is that by giving people a box that is beautiful and approachable and looks like anything else they would have picked up in personal care, that will help reduce the shame at the store, meaning more women will find it more comfortable to buy the product. We also think by providing content and education online, dispelling a ton of myths, we can empower people to really make the best decision for themselves because they understand what they’re buying and they understand how their bodies work. So, that’s one thing.
The other thing is we have an impact program called Julie for All. Julie for All, not only houses our one-to-one donation program, meaning for every Julie purchased, there’s a Julie donated. It also is where we activate with all of our nonprofit partners across the US. So, it’s more than just giving a product. It’s also about creating content and activation in those communities we serve. So, when I think about how do we reach people in marginalized or disadvantaged groups, I think they need what everybody needs––access. They need content and they need empathy. We are providing that to people of all income ranges. Then, especially for those that cannot afford us on shelves or may be even too embarrassed to purchase on shelves, we have our impact program where we have amazing donation partners all over the U.S. that can help women.
BVN: Julie was being offered in some bars across other states, which is really interesting to reach people. You mentioned dispelling myths, what are some misconceptions and myths that people do have about emergency contraception? And how is Julie addressing them head on?
A: Because these myths are not only known, but they are deeply ingrained, we have a mountain to climb to really put out the correct information and to talk to people in a really direct and head on way about how EC actually works. I will say the two biggest myths about emergency contraception are one, that it’s the abortion pill or that it can cause an abortion. That’s simply incorrect. Emergency contraception is about preventing pregnancy, where abortion pills and abortion care are about ending a pregnancy. We’re coming in well before someone is even pregnant. EC delays ovulation; no egg, no fertilization, no baby. And so as easily and thoughtfully and interestingly as we can describe that and say that and make content around that, we are committed to because that is the number one misconception.
The second one is that you can only take EC so many times. So, there’s this myth that we get on Reddit that you can only take EC twice. And after two times you run the risk of being infertile, and that’s also not true. There is, in fact, no limit on the number of times that you can take EC and there is no correlation between taking EC and fertility. While it is not an everyday birth control, it also has no impact on fertility. We’ve got to talk about that as well and we have to make videos and articles and be at medical conferences.
We need to be as loud with the truth as people have been with the lie.
BVN: Julie was released during a time where reproductive rights are being threatened across the U.S., with people losing access to reproductive health resources. How do you feel knowing that Julie will be an option to people who have little to no resources?
A: Absolutely. Look, I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. I live in New York now, but I’m a southern girl. And I know that when you are in the South and you are in the Midwest, you were taught that there’s things that are impolite. You were taught that adults and authority means everything. It’s a different culture, it’s a different way to think about yourself relative to your family and to your community than maybe people who are from the West Coast or who live in the North.
When you have these restrictive laws and in areas where people are already not comfortable talking about sex and women’s health even, it restricts it even more than I think people realize. I am so incredibly proud of what we’re able to provide, not only from a content perspective, [but] an access on shelf perspective and an access for those who cannot afford us on shelf perspective. Because I think it’s really deeply ingrained cultural attitudes that we’ve got to change — hearts and minds. It’s more than just the product. And so in the wake of Dobbs, it really just gets me fired up. But there’s even more work that we can do to change that narrative for people and in the states that are most affected.
BVN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: We feel very much committed and excited about the donation partners that we work with. They range from big to small partners that are really engaged in their community. If you or anyone else knows partners that we could get free emergency contraception and content to, we would love to partner with them. Follow this link to learn more.
Julie currently has more than 20 partners across the U.S. including Black Women’s Blueprint, Sister Reach and Frontera Fund.