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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 11:15 GMT
Head to head: Contraception challenge
Emergency contraception
Chemist emergency contraception sales
The High Court is hearing a challenge to over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception - but this move is fiercely opposed by family planning groups.

If successful, the action, raised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) could mean that not only is the "morning after pill" outlawed, but also some other forms of contraception.


Anne Weyman, Family Planning Association

"We have always known that pregnancy doesn't start until implantation, and methods of contraception work before implantation.

"They are trying to move the point at which pregnancy starts to earlier than this, and say that these products cause a miscarriage.


We're talking here about something like 4.5m women being told overnight that their method of family planning is illegal

Anne Weyman, Family Planning Association
"Their case is about the provision in pharmacies but in fact the same argument would apply to all methods of contraception which can prevent implantation and that would affect every method except barrier methods, sterilisation or natural family planning.

"So we're talking here about something like 4.5m women being told overnight that their method of family planning is illegal.

"We're very hopeful that it won't get through, our advice is that it's not a good case, but you never know with the law, and this is something about which the legislators were thinking in 1861, and the judge has to interpret it.

"We believe that if this court case were to be successful then it would cause havoc. The government would have to act immediately - you can't have a situation where women can't choose their contraception."


John Smeaton, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

"We're doing this because the government has introduced an order whereby the abortion-inducing morning-after-pill can be sold over the counter by pharmacies without prescription.

"It is misleadingly described as contraception - in fact Germaine Greer has complained about the deception of millions of women.

"When something is heavily promoted and advertised - they want to try and convey that this is not an early abortion, it stops conception.


An individual human life begins at fertilisation and pregnancy begins at that time.

John Smeaton, SPUC
"But one of the ways it works is by preventing the newly-conceived embryo from implanting in the lining of the womb and causing early abortion.

"What we are saying is that this should be controlled by law like any other abortion.

John Smeaton
John Smeaton: Emergency contraception is "early abortion"
"What we are doing is tackling a particular decision by government to make unsupervised abortion by means of a pill available in pharmacies to girls as young as 16 - who will receive a dose of levenogestorel 50 times greater than the daily mini-pill.

"The morning-after-pill is what we are concerned about - that is what all our legal arguments are concentrated on.

"An individual human life begins at fertilisation and pregnancy begins at that time.

"If by giving women information about something which has such a powerful effect on their body and possibly a newly-conceived embryo it will cause havoc, all I can say is that we have got more trust in women than the Family Planning Association."

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