Boots has finally reduced the cost of its morning-after pill after publicly refusing to do so, leading to weeks of criticism.
The high street pharmacist has confirmed it has introduced out a new, less expensive version of emergency contraception (EHC) at a cost of £15.99 in 38 of its stores. It will become available in October.
'We're committed to listening to our customers on this important matter, and have been working hard to establish a sustainable supply of this medicine so we can offer this as part of our EHC service nationally across all 2,500 of our stores,' a spokesperson for the retailer said.
'We continue to believe that the best way to increase access of EHC is for a free NHS service to be made available to all women for the provision of EHC in England, as it is in Scotland and Wales.'
Yet even at £15.99, it is still £2.49 more expensive than the £13.50 that competitor pharmacies – including Superdrug, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda – recently cut their price to.
You can still buy Boots own-version morning after pill, which costs £26.75, alongside leading brands ellaOne and Levonelle. The chemist has not confirmed whether it will reduce the price of these products, which it will continue to sell 'to ensure we can provide a range of solutions that are right depending on a woman's individual circumstances', the spokesperson added.
Back in July, Boots said it would not lower the cost of the morning-after pill despite a campaign from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a leading provider of abortion care.
The high street chain's chief pharmacist, Marc Donovan, stated that the company did not want to be accused of 'incentivising inappropriate use'.
The internet, quite rightly, had a lot to say about this. The women's parliamentary Labour party (PLP) wrote to Donovan to express 'deep concern' about the company's refusal to reduce the price of emergency contraception. The letter has been signed by prominent MPs including Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper.
It sounded an awful lot like they were justifying charging extortionate prices for something every women should, by right, have access to for fear of pissing off a sexist section of society.
Days later, the retailer has a sudden change of heart, saying: 'Pharmacy and care for customers are at the heart of everything we do, and as such we are truly sorry that our poor choice of words in describing our position on emergency hormonal contraception has caused offence and misunderstanding, and we sincerely apologise.'
The high-street chain said its price tag was based on the cost of the medicine and the consultation pharmacists carries out with women but is 'committed' to finding less expensive versions of the tablet.
'We firmly believe in the right of all women to access the EHC service with ease and convenience, and have long been at the forefront of increasing accessibility of contraception for women,' they wrote.
BPAS said deliberately setting the price high to prevent women from using it regularly was both 'patronising and insulting'.
'Women in France seem perfectly capable of 'appropriate' use, despite having access to EC for seven euros,' Katherine O'Brien, Head of Media at BPAS, told Vice. 'Why are UK women any different? We don't need Boots saving us from ourselves.'
The Women's Equality Party also joined forces with the BPAS to call for a boycott using the hashtag #justsaynon.
'Women should be able to access emergency contraception without being ripped off,' said Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party, in a press release. 'We know that emergency contraception can be difficult to access for free on the NHS, with appointments at GP surgeries or family planning clinics hard to obtain.
'Many women will need to buy these pills over the counter, and it is irresponsible and exploitative for retailers to charge over the odds for them. This lack of consistency in the provision of women's contraception threatens to undermine our reproductive rights, and Boots' approach to this concern is indicative of a society that prioritises profit over women's health and wellbeing.'
In 2016, British women were paying almost five times as much for the morning after pill as those in the rest of Europe. In France, the pill can be bought for roughly the same price as an overpriced Starbucks frappe, a mere £5.50.
To counter this highly depressing statistic, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) launched a campaign calling for retailers to reduce the price of the morning after pill, calling the inflated rates as a 'sexist surcharge.'
Thankfully Boots is allowing women proper access to emergency contraception based on fact, not scaredy-cat opinion.