A new report from The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) suggests that the morning after pill should be sold "straight off the shelf" and it be made cheaper in order to improve reproductive health in the UK.
Right now in England, Scotland, and Wales, if you need emergency contraception, a mandatory consultation with the pharmacist is required. As the RCOG report, entitled Better for Women, explains:
"This adds a further barrier to access since many girls and women report that this consultation leaves them feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed or judged. Many pharmacies display no information about EHC and do not have any dummy packets on their shelves, yet they do display pregnancy tests, a wide range of condoms, and even information about Viagra."
On top of that, in England, many people have to pay up to £35 for the medication, "because it is not available free of charge in 50% of services in England," the report states, before continuing: "This sum of money is unaffordable for many girls and women, reinforcing the many existing sexual and reproductive health care inequalities."
In the past, it has been argued that the morning after pill would be 'misused' or 'over used' if made more readily available. However, the RCOG says there is "no evidence" of this during the time when the drug has been "available over the counter in the UK for almost 20 years." They continue:
"Oral EC is available ‘in front of the counter’ in pharmacies in Canada and Scandinavia where it is recognised that it can safely be used without supervision, and that the behind the counter framework inhibits women’s access. The UK must follow this example of good practice."
Speaking to the BBC about the report Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare said: "Consultations with pharmacists are highly recommended and best practice, as this is a valuable opportunity for individuals to discuss their contraceptive needs with a healthcare professional. However, a consultation should not be a barrier to receiving emergency contraception."
Along with the morning after pill, Better for Women discusses other important elements of reproductive health, including abortions. In agreement with a set of NICE guidelines publish in Sept. 2019, the RCOG suggests that women should be able to access the assessment required before a medical abortion (a combination of two drugs, mifepristone followed by misoprostol) via the phone or video message, rather than at a clinic, in order to make the whole experience easier.
Better for Women recommends that a network of one-stop health clinics be created that offer smear tests, contraceptives, and advice under one roof.
“It’s important we provide a comprehensive health service for girls and women throughout their lives," President of the RCOG Professor Lesley Regan told the BBC. "We want to empower 51% of the population to be as healthy as possible and ensure no-one is left behind."