Put morning-after pill on general sale to give UK women full control, experts say | Contraception and family planning

Women should be given full control of their contraceptive needs by being allowed to buy the morning-after pill in supermarkets and petrol stations in the UK, a coalition of healthcare bodies has said.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) said it was high time the barriers to emergency contraception were removed by reclassifying the morning-after pill under the general sales list, meaning it could be bought in shops.

Emergency contraception is currently only available after a compulsory consultation with a pharmacist.

The FSRH’s position has been supported by organisations such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine.

Dr Janet Barter, the FSRH president, said: “Access to contraception is such a basic human right and it is high time we begin to remove the barriers people face accessing oral emergency contraception. We want to make oral emergency contraception free and easily accessible to everyone who needs it, at a time and place that suits them, be that in a supermarket or their local sexual health clinic.”

In 2019 a report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommended that the morning-after pill should be sold off the shelf alongside pregnancy tests and condoms.

The FRSH said it “supports universal provision across the UK of free, accessible oral emergency contraception without fear of harassment or stigma”.

Barter said: “It is so important that people can take full control of their own contraceptive needs. We believe that the reclassification of oral emergency contraception from a pharmacy medicine to general sales list would be an enormous step forward, giving people autonomy and empowering them to make the right decision for themselves.

“The next important step in the process to improve access to oral emergency contraception would be to make it free for everyone.”

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Georgina O’Reilly, the associate director of communications and campaigns at BPAS, said: “This is not just a safe medication, and considerably safer than many other products on the shelf, it protects women against pregnancy, a condition which can seriously affect women’s physical and mental health – as well as her personal safety.

“Of course it’s not the same as taking a paracetamol, because the consequences if it’s not taken are so much more significant that an ongoing headache. We owe it to women to do everything in our power to get this pill into their hands as swiftly as possible.”

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