Campaigners Urge For Emergency Contraception To Be Cheaper And Available On Supermarket Shelves

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is calling for an end to the 'sexist surcharge' on emergency contraception and for it to be available to buy from your local high street shops

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If you've ever had to reluctantly fork out half a day's pay for the morning-after pill, or endured the marginally awkward task of informing a male pharmacist of your most recent sexual activities, listen up.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) – Britain's largest reproductive rights charity – is calling on the Department of Health to allow emergency contraception (EC) to be sold straight from shop shelves – alongside aspirin – and for an end to the 'sexist surcharge' that can cost a staggering £30 for British women.

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BPAS revealed that the pill can be sold for as little as £6 in other European countries – a difference that it says would be cheaper if a woman hopped on a plane to France to buy the morning-after pill than a visit to their local pharmacy shop.

But it's not only the cost that's the issue for BPAS, it's also the compulsory pharmacy consultation that it claims is putting women off from asking for the morning-after pill.

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Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said the consultation is 'utterly stupid' and 'unnecessary and embarrassing', and inadvertently implies that sexually active women aren't capable to decide whether they need to obtain emergency contraception.

She said: '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.

The charitable service suggests that women should have the flexibility and freedom to buy the pill directly from supermarket and pharmacies and calls for EC to reclassified as a General Sales List medication.

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'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,' explained Furedi.

However, pharmacists and family planning groups have come out in defence of the consultation periods, explaining that they are used as a way of informing women of important subjects such as sexually transmitted diseases and support women who might be victims of abuse.

Sandra Gidley, chairwoman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's English Board, said: '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,' she concluded.

'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,' she added.

BPAS' campaign, titled #JustSayNon, comes 15 years after the progestogen-only emergency contraceptive was first made available to women to buy in pharmacies after a consultation with a pharmacist.

BPAS claims the price of EC has deliberately risen in recent years and the pharmacy consultation was implemented in order to prevent women from using it as a regular form of contraception.

In response, a spokesman for the Department of Health has revealed: 'Emergency contraception is available free of charge from general practice, sexual health clinics and from some community pharmacies.

'We are clear it is only for use in emergencies and we have no plans to change the system,' they added.

Do you think emergency contraception should be made cheaper and available on supermarket shelves? Let us know at @ELLEUK

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