THE BLOG

Emergency Contraception: What's The Big Deal?

17/01/2017 16:51

I'm a man writing my first Huff Post blog about women's equality- but wait, please don't leave! Bear with me on this one.

As a society, we have always learnt to accept trade-offs when it comes to equality - not necessarily by our own doing but by never challenging the status quo, passed down through generations. Women's equality is perhaps the greatest example of this in the UK, but it's something we are beginning to finally challenge.

Until very recently, this hasn't been the case for emergency contraception (more commonly known as the morning after pill). Now you're probably thinking "how is this a big deal or even relevant to women's equality?", bear with me as I take you on a little journey.

Let me just break down some facts for you first:

  • Emergency contraception is extremely safe, in fact it's even safer than: Painkillers, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) and Digestive medicines such as proton pump inhibitors.
  • While EC is available free from GPs and clinics, appointments are hard to obtain quickly.
  • Many women have no choice but to buy EC, and the cost is much higher here than elsewhere in Europe.
  • In many countries, EC is available to buy directly off the shelf.
  • Mandatory consultation adds to the high cost - yet there is no clinical need for it.
  • EC is extremely safe, and considerably safer than other medications sold straight from the shelf.
  • 1/3rd of British women have had unprotected sex in the last 12 months, the majority did not use EC after.
(Source, BPAS)

The Morning After Pill in the UK:
Okay, so the pill is pretty safe right? So why do pharmacies and the government insist on keeping the pill behind the counter? I can hear you say "No big deal", but you'd be wrong, on so many levels. This is a big deal! Imagine this: you had sex last night, you're probably feeling pretty good about it (unless something went terribly wrong), but, you didn't use protection. The day, as a woman, your day gets off to a tricky start, you now have to decide between risking getting pregnant or going to get the pill. For many women, the latter half of the process is pretty daunting. So now you are walking into a small, quiet pharmacy, that has quite a few customers all fumbling around. You're standing in front of the chemist, whom you have never met, and you ask for the pill. Heads spin around the room, staring at you, full of judgement. You are then asked a series of very intimate questions by the chemist, such as "How long has it been since you had sex?", followed by an array of similar pre-written statements. Now even for someone who is super confident, this can be an embarrassing, overly intrusive series of events, all for a woman to look after her own body and health. To top it all off, guess what? "That'll be £30.00 please". Thirty quid, for a drug that's safer than paracetamol and after enduring a conversation like the one above, it's no wonder 66% of women in the UK choose not to use the drug in the first place.

The Morning After Pill in France:
Now lets compare that to the lovers capital of Europe, France. You have sex, feel pretty good about it (unless something went terribly wrong), but you didn't use protection. No big deal, you strut on down to your local pharmacy, find a packet of EC (ON THE SHELF), take it to the counter - silence - "That'll be €7 please". Done.

After thinking about this for a long time, I wondered if a man could perhaps buy EC on behalf of his partner - essentially sharing the burden. This inspired a short "undercover video" of both the experience of a man and a woman trying to buy EC. I won't ruin the surprise, but you can take a look at the video here, I think you'll be shocked by the results.

As part of my role at Shape History, a social change company, I've been working closely with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) on a new campaign that aims to reduce the cost of EC across the UK called 'Just Say Non!'.

If you have a minute, please go to www.JustSayNon.org.uk and sign up to this new nationwide movement (gentlemen are very welcome to support).

If you have any questions about Shape History, please contact me: Alex@ShapeHistory.com

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