Another Sexist Surcharge

Recently, retailers such as Superdrug and Tesco have reduced the price of emergency contraception, a huge step in making contraception more accessible. However, Boots have released a statement saying that they will not be following suit. Their initial claim was that the high prices are to deter women from “misusing” the pill. This has obvious implications for how they view their customers who need these services, and it’s not positive. Following a hard backlash, Boots have since gone back on this saying that they will try to find a way of reducing costs.

We are fortunate in Scotland that you can go to any pharmacy and ask the prescription counter for emergency contraception and get it for free; all you have to do is have a consultation with them. Unfortunately, many people in the rest of the UK do not have affordable access to emergency contraception. Moreover, many people do not really understand how it works.

The emergency contraceptive pill consists of artificial hormones. It is similar to the contraceptive pill, only in a more concentrated dose. This causes the prevention of ovulation (an egg being released) if it has not happened yet, and the thinning of the uterus lining, meaning that if an egg has been released and fertilised, it will not able to implant and develop into a foetus. You only need to take one, and it can be taken effectively up to 3-5 days (depending on what one you take). However, the sooner you take the pill after you’ve had unprotected sex, the more effective it is. The copper IUD can also be used as emergency contraception – however, this would require a trip to a sexual health clinic or GP in order for them to fit it.

There are so many myths surrounding emergency contraception. Many people comment, especially on the Internet, that the emergency pill is bad for you, however, the NHS states that there are no long-term side effects of taking the emergency pill. This myth about the pill being bad for your health may be due to the side effects, which include nausea and disrupted periods. It is natural that you will get some side effects when you have a higher level of hormones in your system, and it takes a little bit for your body to adjust. In addition to this, the potential risks of an unplanned pregnancy can sometimes outweigh those of the emergency pill.

The colloquial term “the morning after pill” is also a myth. The emergency pill can be taken up to 3-5 days after the instance of unprotected sex, however, the sooner the better. This myth is also a dangerous one. What might look like a simple semantic issue, the connotations of this name are that it can only be taken the morning after unprotected sex, which may discourage people from seeking it after a day has past.

The decision Boots has made, and the statement released, is condescending and sexist. The idea that women cannot be trusted to have access to emergency contraception at a fair price, while condoms are often free and easily accessed is simply wrong. For most people, getting the emergency pill is for just that: emergencies. In this case, Boots is forcing these women to decide whether they can afford to prevent something which is not in their control. Much like Tampon Tax, the fact that people with a uterus must pay between £25 and £35 where their counterparts do not have to is despicable. How does a retailer have any right to decide the cost of emergency medication? Surely it is time for the NHS to regulate this issue?

Some people reading this may ask why people needing emergency contraception do not go to a sexual health clinic or GP if they do not want to pay the extortionate rates retailers charge. The fact is, with such a small window for the pill to be effective, you cannot always rely on the GP or sexual health clinics to be open or available to see you. That is why sometimes you have no choice but to go to a chemist, and moreover, why the emergency pill should be both available and affordable at your local pharmacy.

This issue has made Boots’ attitude toward women clear, they do not care or respect us and our ability to decide what happens to our bodies. The fact that they changed their mind after threats of a boycott and public outrage, rather than listening to what their customers want and need, shines a light on the way that people with uteruses are being failed by society. Boots needs to locate its moral compass and stop putting profits before people.

[Rachel Gillett]

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