Melanie McDonagh

As Boots discovered, the morning-after pill is now a lifestyle choice

As Boots discovered, the morning-after pill is now a lifestyle choice
Text settings

Well Boots has climbed down in a battle it was never going to win against Twitter, the mouthy MP Jess Philips and the abortion providers, BPAS, about giving out the morning-after pill ad lib, and as cheap as chips. But in what way, exactly, was Boots 'infantilising women', as Ms Philips had it, by being reluctant to make it as accessible as Nurofen?

It all began when BPAS wrote to Boots’ head pharmacist, Marc Donovan, pointing out that generic versions of the Levonelle brand of emergency hormonal contraception can be bought cheaply by pharmacies and can retail for as little as £5.50 in France. By comparison, Boots charges £26.75 for its own version.

Mr Donovan wrote back to say that if Boots did make the pill cheap as chips it could be 'accused of incentivising inappropriate use'. Cue for the explosion of tweets from Jess Philips and that bit of the female commentariat which sees anything that could restrict sexual freedom as inherently fascist. The BPAS campaign was backed – of course – by the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party which is talking ominously about a boycott of Boots. It’s the kind of idiot issue – like Stella Creasy’s high-handed bid to override the abortion law in Northern Ireland – which now passes for proper politics.

I’d be absolutely delighted, myself, if I thought that Boots’ stance was based on serious moral concerns about the misuse of Emergency Hormonal Contraceptives – which don’t, obviously, prevent conception, just implantation of a fertilised ovum (so in a different moral category from condoms).

What Boots may well have found on the ground is that emergency contraception isn’t emergency; it’s being used routinely, with obvious implications for sexually transmitted diseases which, my clap consultant friend tells me, have gone into orbit, as you might expect when promiscuity doesn’t go hand in hand – if that’s the phrase  – with prophylactics. It’s preferable to outright abortion, but that’s all that you can say for it.

It’s not infantilising women if pharmacists were to suggest that responsible sexual behaviour is preferable to emergency contraception, so called; but you can’t say so. Jess Philips has tweeted 'I welcome apology from Boots their initial response unfortunate, really glad we don't just stay silent, shrug & accept that stuff'. Staying silent isn’t anyone’s strong suit nowadays. Still it spares me the trouble of going out of my way to shop more at Boots to make up for the WPLP’s boycott. Now, how about looking at BPAS and how rigorously it and other abortion providers conform with the quite stringent requirements of the Abortion Act when it comes to signing off on abortions – or pre-natal homicide if you prefer? Over to…whom, exactly?

Written byMelanie McDonagh

Melanie McDonagh is a leaderwriter for the Evening Standard and Spectator contributor. Irish, living in London.

Topics in this articleInternationalculture