Morning After Pills To Be Handed Out In Advance For The First Time
Women and young girls are being offered the chance to stock up on ‘morning after’ pills at £10 a time by Britain’s leading abortion provider. The charity BPAS says keeping the pills at home will stop more women from getting pregnant after unprotected sex, despite studies showing advance supplies do not reduce the abortion rate.
It said it would be prepared to sell pills to schoolgirls under the age of consent. The move sparked outrage last night with critics saying it would encourage women to use the powerful drug as contraception without thinking about the consequences.
There will also be concerns about storing such powerful pills in bathroom cabinets where children could get hold of them.
The new campaign is the first to openly promote the commercial sale of emergency contraception in advance.
Pharmacists are permitted to sell the pill only to women who have already risked pregnancy – at around £26 a time – although GPs and family planning doctors may give prescriptions in advance to patients.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, (formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service) which launches the Just In Case campaign today, said “Sometimes contraception fails, and sometimes we fail to use it effectively.
“In the real world, accidents happen. Emergency contraceptive pills give us a second chance to avoid a problem pregnancy.
“It makes sense to keep it in the bathroom cabinet, along with your plasters and paracetamol.
“You don’t wait until you have a headache before buying aspirin, and it makes no sense to wait until you have unprotected sex before you get emergency contraception.”
The morning after pill is most effective in the first 12 hours after unprotected intercourse. Although it can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sex, it is up to 50 per cent more effective if taken within 12 hours.
The charity said the pill is rarely available to women in advance and many struggle to access it within the ‘crucial’ timeframe – especially at weekends or public holidays including Christmas.
It may be difficult to get a doctors’ appointment in time and many family planning clinics have restricted opening hours, said the charity.
The pill will now be available for just £10 in advance from 17 of its clinics. However, at least 11 studies show giving emergency contraception to women in advance doesn’t reduce the abortion rate.
Ms Furedi confirmed that underage girls who are sexually active would be given contraceptive advice and could buy the morning after pill from BPAS clinics.
“We don’t think this is encouraging sex, we think we are encouarging women to avoid unnecessary unwanted pregnancies and we know that many girls of 16 and under 16 are sexually active. If they come to us for advice they will have counselling with a doctor or nurse and the opportunity to buy it.
“We are the first organisation to openly promote sales of the morning after pill in advance but we don’t recommend it in place of regular contraception.”
“The World Health Organisation says their repeated use poses no known health risks” she added.
But Michaela Aston of Life said: “High abortion rates are the symptom of a culture that condones and encourages irresponsible sexual behaviour.
“This move by BPAS beggars belief because it encourages people to have promiscuous sex without thinking about the consequences.
“The nation’s sexual health is bound to deteriorate even further – and the only response is to provide a morning after pill which can actually cause early abortion by preventing implantation of the fertilised egg.
“The BPAS is trivialising both abortion and sex” she added.
Anthony Ozimic, political secretary for the pro-life charity SPUC, said he was concerned women were being toldby BPAS the pill did not cause an early abortion when it did.
He said: “Schering, the manufacturers of the morning-after pill, state that one of the possible actions of the morning after pill is to prevent a newly-conceived embryo from implanting in the womb.
“BPAS are scandalously misleading women by telling them that the morning-after pill cannot work as an abortifacient.”
A Department of Health spokesman said “Emergency contraception is not the answer to cutting abortion rates. Our policy has always been that safe sex, using reliable contraception on a regular basis, is the best way for women to protect against unwanted pregnancy.
“We are working hard to reduce the demand for abortions and have invested £40million to improve access to contraceptive services nationwide – which includes an audit to identify the places where people are having difficulty getting hold of contraception.
“We have also recently reduced the VAT rate on condoms and other contraceptives – making them cheaper than ever before and are working with the industry to increase the supply of free condoms to high risk groups.”
However the Government considers that women requesting emergency contraception when regular methods have failed are acting responsibly, added the DH spokesman.