Calls to end ‘sexist’ morning-after pill shaming and pricing

Marie Claire Dorking
The BPAS has called for changes in the way women access Emergency Contraception [Photo: Getty]
The BPAS has called for changes in the way women access Emergency Contraception [Photo: Getty]

If you need emergency contraception you have two choices. You can try and bag yourself an appointment with your GP, and we all know how tricky that can be. Or you can shuffle on down to your local pharmacy and endure a potentially judgemental, definitely awkward conversation with the pharmacist before forking out up to £30 for the ‘morning after pill’.

But, now, a leading reproductive rights charity is calling for big changes in the way women access emergency contraception (EC) in the UK.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) want EC to be more affordable and easily available, much like other over-the-counter drugs. But it doesn’t stop there. The charity is also campaigning for an end to the mandatory consultation women must undergo before receiving emergency contraception, describing the current system “sexist”.

Though the two most popular ‘morning after pill’ brands – Levonelle and ellaOne – are available for free at GPs and sexual health clinics, women who are unable to make an appointment within the requisite time frame are forced to buy the pill at the chemist.

Levonelle, is usually priced between £25 and £30 – but this figure has been criticised for being too high and therefore potentially limiting some women from using it, when it is really needed.

Chief Executive of BPAS, Ann Furedi said in a press release: “It is utterly stupid that we have made a medication which gives women a second chance of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy so hard to obtain. There is no financial justification for the high price of this pill, nor clinical reason for a consultation before it can be sold. People are trusted to use a wide variety of medications sold on the shelves of pharmacies in a sensible and appropriate way. Emergency contraception should be no different.”

“It’s time to ditch what is the ultimate sexist surcharge and put emergency contraception where it belongs – on the shelf, at a price women can afford,” she continued.

Women are facing shaming and pricing barriers to accessing emergency contraception [Photo: Getty]
Women are facing shaming and pricing barriers to accessing emergency contraception [Photo: Getty]

Ann Furedi said there is no clinical reason for a woman to consult with a healthcare professional before she obtains emergency contraception, unless of course she wants to.

Now, the BPAS is calling on the Department of Health to launch a review of retail access to EC in order to ensure women have more affordable, straight forward access.

But pharmacists have defended the need for consultation periods, and say it helps protect vulnerable women or those who have been victims of abuse.

“Having a discussion with the pharmacist is central to providing emergency contraception. It further supports a woman to consider her future use of contraception, her risk of sexually transmitted infections and help with any other sexual health questions she may have,” Sandra Gidley, chairwoman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board explained.

Do you think we need to make changes to the way emergency contraception is accessed? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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