Even though emergency contraception (aka the “morning-after pill”) has been available over the counter since 2006 and without an age limit since 2013, the dark cloud hovering over it remains. For years, women have reported feeling shame and embarrassment when purchasing it, averting their gaze from cashiers or even pharmacists in places where the pill is inappropriately kept behind a pharmacy counter. Now, as its very availability is called into question by claims wrongfully associating it with “early abortion,” there’s never been a more important time to banish its stigma—which is what Julie, a new EC pill brand, aims to achieve.
This is what Amanda E. Johnson, a Black woman and co-founder of Mented Cosmetics, Julie Schott and Brian Bordainick are aiming to do de-stigmatize contraception for women. The trio got together to create a new FDA-approved morning-after pill company called Julie. The brand aims to remove stigmas around such forms of contraception and make them more accessible to marginalized communities within the health and wellness space.
Emergency Contraception is Used So that you Don’t get Pregnant
Julie is now available in all 50 states and can be purchased for about $42 at Walmart. The product contains emergency contraceptive Levonorgestrel 1.5mg, which is an FDA-approved, progestin-only emergency contraceptive.
This couldn’t be a more timely product considering Roe v. Wade was overturned earlier this year, resulting in new abortion bans nationwide. This means women, especially women of color, may have less access to family planning options. The ban could also exacerbate existing disparities in healthcare.
In addition to that, Julie comes at a time when the CDC states that non-Hispanic Black women are less likely to use emergency contraception (7.9%) than non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women (11%). Their studies also find the use of emergency contraception increases the more educated women are. Julie co-founder and president Amanda E. Johnson, also co-founder of Mented Cosmetics, says the product was created with Black women in mind.
“I think I want to change the face and narrative of women’s healthcare. For so long it has been a type of woman who has access to innovation in healthcare or a type of person who even needs emergency contraception.”AMANDA JOHNSON TELLS ESSENCE
“Emergency contraception is used so that you don’t get pregnant whereas the abortion pills are used to end a pregnancy and existing pregnancy,” Johnson clarifies. But aside from shifting the messaging around morning-after pills, Julie is also making them more accessible through partnerships at state, regional, and national levels. They have a donation program in place where money from every Julie purchase goes to donating their product to organizations concerning every issue from domestic violence and indigenous groups to HBCUs and more.
Transparency in Side Effects
“We’re in all of these segments and it allows us to not only have the conversation and the education, but also actually just give out the drug,” she says. Getting the pill out there also means being honest about all aspects of it. As with every morning-after pill, Julie has side effects too. Some common symptoms of emergency contraception includes nausea, dizziness, fatigue, headache, bleeding between periods, or heavier periods. The brand wants to be transparent about these side effects and also normalize them in a way that obliterates any shame about the use of these products as a whole.
“I think that’s what we need to do as a 21st century pharmaceutical company,” says Johnson. “Actually just talk about what normal looks like.”