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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 13:55 GMT
Is it too easy to get the morning-after pill?

Women are being given free morning after pills without prescriptions over the counter at UK chemists in an attempt to cut the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Those backing the pilot scheme - including the Department of Health - says it offers effective action and expert advice, including proper consultation.

But opponents say it encourages casual sex. "Girls will get used and hurt because boys know there is no need to worry about the risk of pregnancy," said pressure group Family and Youth Concern.

What do you think? Is this a sensible response to a growing social problem, or does it encourage casual attitudes to sex and pregnancy?

Your Reaction:

Well having been in this situation myself and sat in a room being questioned about the situation, I am in favour of purchasing the Morning after Pill over the counter. I do not think it will increase casual sex as I always say it is down to the amount of education that a person has had as to where they want there life to go. I think it will reduce pregnancies.
Jane Love, England

I think this is the most stupidest idea. No doubt the people behind it have good intentions, but LOOK AT THE WHOLE PICTURE!!! By giving free morning-after contraceptives, the public is saying that it is O-KAY with a girl conceiving a baby and then KILLING it the next morning. Where have our morals gone?!!
Martha Stout, USA

I do not feel that giving women easier access to the morning after pill is irresponsible. There have been improvements in sex education in school and the message that a sexual relationship should not be entered into lightly has been spread.
The fact is young people will go out and have sex and there is only so much that can be done to try and press the responsibility needed before having sex. This being the case there is a need for emergency contraception and the old system of making it available i.e. through family planning centres and such like, is simply not good enough.
If you are talking about a young girl whose local family planning centre is closed where does she go? It could well be the case that she has to travel some distance to get to the nearest family planning centre which is open. It would be much easier if she could go to her local pharmacist and get it. This would reduce the risk of her not being able to get the contraception in the set time period and reduce unplanned pregnancies.
Rosemary McGowan, Scotland

At the age of 32 I had the misfortune to have to take the morning after pill when a condom broke. It doesn't just happen to teenagers. The relationship was far too new to consider children. Being an average wage-earner and not a high-flying career woman I would never consider bringing up a child alone.
What would the critics of this scheme rather I had done? Had a child and then claimed support from the State? They'd soon be complaining about that one and the cost to them. Seems to me you can't win one way or the other with some people; I would like to be a parent one day, but not at a cost to others. Wake up you people - world population is spinning out of control; people have sex and that's that. Surely it's cheaper to have a scheme like this one than the cost of more unwanted/unloved/deprived children in this world?
Jan, UK

A free morning after pill is cheaper than an abortion or an unwanted baby and people are going to continue to 'take risks' whether it is available or not. My concern is the side effects of a drug that may not actually work. If you take the pill and don't get pregnant how do you know it has prevented a pregnancy? A close friend took it exactly as prescribed within the time limit and still ended up pregnant.
Gina, UK

I wish that chemists had been freely giving out the morning-after pill two years ago. It would save the anguish of unwanted pregnancies due to faulty condoms.
Mark Boulton, UK

I took the morning after pill last year at the ripe old age of 31. I knew little about it and its side effects. Fortunately, through my GP I had the support of a very understanding nurse who explained how it worked and how I was likely to feel.
My body reacted violently to this pill and I remained in bed for two days. I would never wish the experience on any woman let alone a 16-year-old girl. To reduce unwanted pregnancies I believe that we need to better educate children at school not dole out 'problem-solving' pills.
Anon, England

Sex makes people pregnant. How inconvenient. What gives us the right to spontaneity? Modern women should be more organised than to need such unnatural and future-changing aids. Why don't we start demanding real love? We're selling ourselves short.
Ruth, UK

We are not discussing any form of contraception: this pill does not prevent it, (morning-AFTER pill): it prevents the implantation of the human embryo in its mother's womb. So we are discussing abortion. How are we to help those who realise this fact only after the event? Weronika Hansen, Scotland

Yes, the morning after pill is a form of abortion, yes this is better than bringing unwanted kids into the world, yes, it should be available as easily as possible - this bears no relevance to the question of a more responsible attitude to sex and reproduction though. That will only come from providing full information on all the issues to young people and allowing them to develop their own moral system based on the current technological situation - remember, there is no longer an automatic connection between sex and pregnancy.
At the end of the day, if you have got as far as needing an abortion or a MAP (especially in the UK, with the availability of advice and many, free, forms of contraception) you've been pretty flippin' silly in the first place and deserve some nasty side effects, but we all 'screw up' sometimes and it would be good to think that we wouldn't have to tell too many people about the screw up in order to avoid the worst of the complications. If you don't want to kill a foetus, don't create one.
Heather, UK

Overall this is a welcome development as many women across the world have expressed with their insightful comments. What I find disturbing is the negativity and moralising from my fellow men. In particular from our North American cousins who harbour conservative Victorian-esque values and who seem to both undervalue and underestimate the women of this world.
Neil, UK

I am horrified to read some of the previous messages. Especially those from people who think that making the morning after more available leads to teenagers being more sexually active. Wake up! People, whatever age, are having sex. This is not just an easy way out for teenagers, it is a secondary precaution against pregnancy for women. It is not always unprotected sex that calls for the use of the morning after pill. Broken condoms do happen as well. People who are against this need to see it from a scared woman's point of view. Why should women have to panic and wait hours to receive the pill. And all of you who are worried about your taxes being spent on this, would you rather spend a small amount, or a larger amount on abortions every year? Stop thinking about you own personal expenses, and think about those who may have no other means of preventing an unplanned pregnancy within a 72 hour period.

I do support this idea but with misgivings. I am under no doubt that it will make people less inclined to take better precautions in the 'heat of the moment' as its often the embarrassment of questioning by doctors and wasting precious time in casualty, that is most off-putting. But also having taken it myself and being aware of highly unpleasant illness that can accompany it, a few experiences like that and I think the woman will think twice. It does worry me that men will be more inclined to pressurise women into unprotected sex as a result, not having to suffer such effects themselves, so I'm encouraged by the negative responses from men here..
Laura, UK

Not only should it NOT be so easily available; it should be taken off the shelves completely until it has undergone proper investigation as to safety/side-effects; or better still our attitude as a society should grow away from selfishness - open up to the truth of the value of human life at all stages - and make a place for all infants - no matter how they were conceived.
Moira, England

Last time I checked, birth control, abortions and sex before marriage are still legal in the UK. As such if a female decides that she needs the morning after pill it should be her decision.
Steve, UK

I think it is wonderful that the UK can lead the way in this important move toward improving women's health and options. According to the World Health Organisation, there are NO contradictions to the use of morning after pills. Studies also show clearly that the pill works better the sooner they are taken. Therefore it seems ridiculous to limit access to those women who can scramble to get themselves to a doctor within the short time frame possible, when well qualified pharmacists can do the job perfectly well.
Charlotte Ellertson, Mexico

Being male I cannot comment on the consumption of the morning after pill, but the reported experiences sound like it is an extremely unpleasant experience (although perhaps less unpleasant than later treatment of an unwanted pregnancy). Another observation is that the objections stem from some fanciful concept that this will enable evil men to force unwilling females not to take contraceptives. If the female does not consent, it is rape. If the female does consent then she is presumably happy with the precautions taken.
David Merritt, England

'Emergency contraception' involves the use of an abortifaecent, which means the already conceived embryo may be destroyed. We are not animals who need to be protected from pregnancy in this way. We can say no. To take the morning-after pill, which can only be a few times per life, a woman needs expert medical advice because of serious side-effects, like any abortion she needs to have proper counselling about the step she is about to take. It is not a form of contraception, or a neutral easy-to-pop pill. I hope you register my pro-life and pro-human view, for a balanced output on the topic.
Karolina Stolarska, England

Surely it is better not to conceive than to have to take four harmful pills that may or may not work and which ultimately facilitate an abortion of a foetus from the mother. This pill will merely encourage more irresponsibility (if that is possible). Other countries manage to keep unwanted pregnancies under control without resorting to these methods, why can't we?
John van den Bergh, England

I do not think the morning after pill will encourage casual sex any more than what society already does. This pill has been around for a while, the only problem is females feel belittled when asking for it from their GPs. This then causes unwanted pregnancies. Also if there is a split in the condom on the Friday night, it will be too late to wait for the Monday to contact the GP. As for the danger of males thinking they don't need to use a condom it is up to the independent sensible women/girl to make them wear one.
Donna Marie Lindsay, Scotland

I have never had cause to use the Morning after Pill myself but I understand that it can make you feel very sick afterwards and hopefully this will deter people from using it instead of regular contraception. An earlier comment said that tax-payers would not want to shoulder the costs of this. However, I'm quite sure that the cost on the tax-payer of teenage and other unwanted pregnancies would far outweigh the costs of this pill being OTC.
Jennie, England

Wouldn't it be great if the human race was perfect? Or would it? Life doesn't always go to plan - people and products make mistakes and fail - The day after pill helps to patch up those failings. Nobody in their right mind is going to use this method as a sure way of contraception - it is a worrying time waiting for your next period and trying not to vomit after taking the tablets. It is ridiculous that we as women who are old enough to have a child or abortion are not allowed to receive the pill OTC. Chasing round surgeries and casualties just puts more pressure on the NHS and can cause delay outside the 72-hour deadline resulting in a unwanted baby or abortion!
Jennie, UK

I am in favour of the idea, as long as expert consultation is available from the chemist. Better that than the cost and misery of abortion or unwanted children. As for encouraging casual sex, young people will want to live out their sexuality whether the "morning after pill" is available over the counter or not.
Joanna Rowe, Germany

Having had the misfortune to need the Morning After Pill once, after a condom accident, I can identify with the panic of trying to get to a clinic within the shortest time possible! Luckily my accident happened on a weekday, but I spent a good 12 hours or more in panic before taking the first dose. It made me feel absolutely terrible, I had to get up 12 hours later to take another dose (2 am!) and I wouldn't choose to do it again - unless I had to! People whittling on about irresponsible use are blind to the facts - there will always be people who use abortion and/or emergency contraception as their only contraception. Most of use are sensible, and deserve the chance to reduce the panic at failed condoms as much as possible!
Sarah, England

It may be less costly to issue the pill in this manner but the problem doesn't go away. What's wrong with teaching a little abstinence? I mean, the best way to avoid unwanted pregnancy or STDs is NOT to do it. What's wrong with a little discipline and self-control. Such ideas are not here to kill our joy but to enhance it. If only it was "in fashion" to say NO instead of being made to feel "abnormal" because you don't indulge. As for the cost of freely dispensing this pill - I don't want to bear the cost. Why should I?
Theodora, Australia

This seems like a VERY bad idea. I am a medical student - all my textbooks say that the morning after pill has significant side. I guess the first chemist to give it out to someone who has a stroke or pulmonary embolus will discover this.
Rupert Beale, UK

I reluctantly support the distribution of morning-after pills. I say reluctantly because I believe that sex belongs in marriage and nowhere else. However, it is better to prevent unwanted pregnancies than to have abortions. Some people will engage in casual sex no matter what and the availability or unavailability of birth control will have no impact on their behaviour.
Jeff, USA

Since it is a morning-after pill it is no longer contraception it is abortion. So no, it should not be so easy to come by. Although many people use the world population problem as an argument for abortions I feel this argument is weak. Going into the streets and murdering older people would also reduce the population that doesn't make it morally acceptable though.
Vivien Cooksley, Cyprus

It seems incredible that the Morning After Pill is being so frivolously promoted and distributed when the contraceptive pill is still restricted to prescription only distribution. Morning After Pill distribution has risen tremendously over the last years and the abortion rate is still rising. There is no evidence to support the theory that these pills will prevent 'unwanted pregnancies'. Once again women are being used as guinea pigs for an experiment that is likely to be illegal.
Sarah, UK

We have entered a permissive society and it is too late to return to 'old fashioned values'. Therefore, we have to accept that girls will be promiscuous, and preventing unwanted pregnancies is a good idea. Surely it is far better to prevent a pregnancy at an early stage than have to go through a later termination?
Lynda, Britain

It is far less costly to society to offer 'morning after' pills than to allow unwanted pregnancies to become unwanted children.
Tim Gullette, USA

I fail to understand why so many think that it is only teenagers involved. Also PCC (the morning after pill) is so much more effective if given early, it makes sense that an enlarged supply chain is instigated! The lapse in any morals, comes well before the seeking of the morning after pill!
Philip Walton, England

I am a woman locum chemist working mainly on Saturdays when surgeries are closed. Many times I have been asked about the availability of this pill by women who have been exposed to unprotected sex. The only answer has been to direct them to their GP or the local casualty dept. Either way, the woman almost certainly ends up taking this pill having consulted someone who knows only as much of the medical history as the woman volunteers. It seems therefore nonsensical to have to send anyone on an emergency circuit when a careful consultation between us would be as effective, quicker, cheaper, more dignified and equally safe.
Marge, UK

The morning after pill should perhaps not be available so easily to those under 21 years of age. If they think they can get it easily then they are more likely to behave recklessly. There should also be a track record kept of every woman who is receiving the pill and nobody should be allowed more than two pills per year. Certainly the concept is far preferable to surgical abortions in a more advanced stage of pregnancy which become more barbaric and distasteful as each day passes toward full term.
Pam J, Brit in California

Anyone who assumes that just because this pill is more freely available, that it will lead to more reckless behaviour by women, has a very low opinion of women. I took this pill at age 16. I didn't have sex thinking "Oh it's okay, I can get a pill tomorrow". Since then I have gained a degree and am now working. I hope to raise children within marriage when I have enough money. Of course people need to take personal responsibility for their actions, and allowing women this pill helps that. These "moral guardians" shold stop assuming that everybody else has sex willy-nilly with anyone. Most people, including teenagers, don't.
Clare, UK

I think it's a brilliant idea. Yes, it will be used by teenagers, but they'll have sex whether they can get the morning after pill or not. Plus, it will be used by a lot of women in stable relationships that have been unlucky. Has anyone out there ever spent a bank holiday trying to get hold of the pill and ended up waiting in A&E, knowing that the longer you sit there, the less chance there is of it working?
Ali Newton, UK

This pill is available free worldwide! The current world birth rate and population are putting the greatest of strains on the resources of this planet. Given the current direction of growth, catastrophe is unavoidable. The prevention of overpopulation is the only way forward for society, otherwise we will experience an even greater loss of quality of life, and in the end another world war or perhaps nature culling the excess population with a new plague or disease.
Han Seung Wan, Republic of south Korea

I have had the morning after pill, three times in the last 4 years. On one occasion I had to wait till the third day to get it as the GP surgery was closed (bank holiday) and my local hospital does not hand them out. I think that this is therefore a godd idea, as long as it is used correctly, and it should be monitored regulary.
Charlie, England

Any sort of help that might control population explosion is to be encouraged - it is no longer a moral issue.

I've had to take the morning-after pill twice as a result of condoms breaking. Both times it made me feel extremely ill. Consequently, I can't imagine anyone wanting to take the morning-after pill instead of using other forms of contraception.
Linda, UK

This action is rewarding the behavior you are condemning and trying to stop. Try some other method.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

I cannot understand why the NHS is putting the morning after pill up for prescription free sale! Three years ago I was refused it because due to problems during pregnancy I was diagnosed as being a "high stroke risk". So how will they know who is and who is not? It seems like a "get rid of it" problem to me. If I had to go to the chemist rather than the doctor, this factor would not have been pointed out to me. It seems dangerous to put women in that situation.
Minnie, Bahrain/ Scotland

A good idea. Even with careful planning things can go wrong such as condoms splitting and this is a way of helping people in those circumstances.
Nick, England

The morning after pill would only be a bandaid instead of a solution just like the condom was to HIV infection. If you dont want an unplanned pregnancy, abstain or go on the birth control pill. This pill will reduce the use of condoms and STD's will be on the rise.
Leanne, USA

I believe that a person has the right to do what they want. Making a pill that is important in the rights of women available will not give the impression that they have free reign to go crazy. It will give them the understanding that they have choices and a country that respects that.
Samantha Christenson, USA

I do not agree with rewarding carelessness and irresponsibility by offering a free walk to your chemist as a solution. While I understand the government's desire to lower the teen pregnancy rate, this latest "free giveaway" is attacking the problem from the wrong end.
Pat van der Veer, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada

No pill will help. The media is advertising teenage sex in full force. We do not talk about "making love", we talk about sex by which we actually mean animal-like copulation. The attitude towards such an intimate and personal interrelation should be changed dramatically.
Linda, Latvia

This pill will only encourage inappropriate behavior. I agree with Linda in Latvia. The movies, TV, magazines, etc, etc., continually bombard us with sex and violence. Society needs a dramatic change in attitude.
John, Canada

People have sex. Period. There is no question about "reward" or "punishment" and I am shocked and dismayed to see it put in these terms of morality and judgement. If we can help women (not just teens) have control over their bodies and fertility then it should be made available as easily and ubiquitously as possible.
Ken, Canada

New attempts at lowering teenage birth rates should be welcomed. Easier availability of the morning after pill will not only benefit teenagers but all people who wish to control if and when they have children. This scheme will also save GPs time, it is they who at present have to give prescriptions for the morning-after pill. As with any attempt to help reduce teenage pregnancy the religious right will object, but that should not be allowed to stop such measures. The government should be applauded for taking the step and encouraged to take more.
Dr P Hayes, Chile

This seems a practical initiative to me. What would those who oppose this measure prefer? Messy abortions, uncared for children, young women denied their potential for one mistake? I still think that men should take more responsibility.
Tom, Australia

You Europeans' birth rate is to low as it is. You better get busy and produce your own children unless you want to get over run by another culture.
Eddy, USA

In the short term this scheme may cut the number of teenage pregnancies. But it gives a big thumbs up message to sexual experimentation by teenagers and so will further the problem in the future. But the government only ever thinks of the short term, and where the next votes will come from.
Karl Hayward-Bradley, UK

Democracy implies choice. Together with an adequate education both at school and at home, it should result in mature individuals who can take advantage of choices like the morning-after pill. What needs be questioned is the adequacy of education or the understanding of democracy.
W. Wolff, Venezuela

It is an unfair burden on the taxpayers.
Dr Killdaire, UK

This pill should be available free worldwide! The current world birth rate and population are putting the greatest of strains on the resources of this planet. Given the current direction of growth, catastrophe is unavoidable. The prevention of overpopulation is the only way forward for society, otherwise we will experience an even greater loss of quality of life, and in the end another world war or perhaps nature culling the excess population with a new plague or disease.
Curtis Peters, UK

If this helps cut down on unwanted pregnancies: brilliant. It can be incredibly difficult to get hold of emergency contraception in the necessary timeframe. And it isn't just for teenagers: I'm sure few people in stable relationships can honestly say they've never had a broken condom or got their dates wrong. Of course women and girls won't start taking it like sweeties. Do the critics know that it is taken along with anti-emetic (sickness) tablets? I do not know any women who take it out of choice. Let's not forget that there are still dinosaurs around who oppose all forms of artificial contraception and presumably believe a woman's place is banged up every year.
Geraldine Curtis, England

What is the fuss about? Seeing that there are hardly any restriction in people copulating at will with anybody and as many people as possible, why should one miserable inanimate pill hold them back. Under what scruplous or social order are we questioning the need?
Dr H Bhogal, UK

The experiment sounds like a good idea and should be tried. Will the pills cause additional problems for people? Perhaps. Will the "curse" of an unwanted pregnancy be dealt with in a responsible way? Yes. Will people "take advantage" of the new technology? Yes. Will it benefit society? I believe so. If it works better than anything else does by March, the experiment has to seen as a success.
David Mawdsley, USA

It is interesting that so far the only negative opinions expressed above have been by men.
Kweku Darko, UK

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See also:
08 Jan 00 |  Health
Morning-after pill over the counter
29 Nov 99 |  Medical notes
Emergency contraception
05 Jan 00 |  Health
Male pill moves closer
26 Feb 99 |  Health
Pregnancy risk of 'morning after' pill

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