Boots has refused to drop the price of the morning after pill over fears it would “provoke complaints” and “incentivise inappropriate use”.
The Women’s Equality Party has now joined forces with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) to call for the pharmacy to drop what they’re calling a “hugely sexist surcharge”.
Superdrug and Tesco have both reduced the prices of emergency contraception pills to £13.50, at the request of BPAS, however Boots refused to do the same.
It has since been accused of “misogyny” and “policing the morning after pill” by Twitter users, who are backing a campaign to encourage cheaper emergency contraception across the board.
Progestogen-based emergency contraception can cost up to five times more in the UK than elsewhere in Europe.
Tesco now charges £13.50 for Levonelle, while Superdrug charges £13.49 for a generic version. Boots, on the other hand, charges £28.25 for Levonelle and £26.75 for its own generic version.
Superdrug and Tesco reduced the cost of the contraceptives after BPAS asked them to review their pricing and offer women a more affordable product.
But BPAS claim Boots declined to follow suit and sent them the following statement: “We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product.”
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said: “Women should be able to access emergency contraception without being ripped off.
“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.”
Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS, said improving women’s access to emergency contraception (including by reducing the price) can “improve women’s physical and mental wellbeing, enabling them to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, which can pose a serious risk to their health”.
BPAS and the Women’s Equality Party said they were both surprised that Boots, which enlisted feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in a recent ad campaign, does not feel able to offer women a more affordable product “on the basis that a small number of people who think women should face the consequences of an episode of unprotected sex might complain”.
Clare Murphy continued: “Most people believe women should be able to access emergency contraception from pharmacies at an affordable price. We urge Boots to listen to them, reconsider their stance, and do the right thing by the women who shop in their stores everyday. Boots needs to drop this hugely sexist surcharge.”
Twitter users were equally unhappy with the decision.
In response to the furore, Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, said he was “extremely disappointed by the focus BPAS have taken in this instance”.
“We were recently contacted by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and sent a full and detailed response outlining our views that this is a professional healthcare service which, we believe, requires a professional healthcare consultation,” he told HuffPost UK.
“This consultation helps support customers in their choice by examining an individual’s full medical history and any potential drug interactions. The consultation also helps the pharmacist offer important sexual healthcare advice to women and helps us prevent emergency contraception from being misused or overused.”
According to Superdrug’s Dr Louisa Draper it is unknown what effect continued use of the morning after pill would have, as medical trials only assessed its safety when used as advised.
Donovan continued: “The NHS commission a free local EHC service which we offer in the vast majority of our pharmacies to eligible women following consultation. We also stock three Emergency Hormonal Contraceptive medicines (EHC) which are available following a conversation with a pharmacist.”