Those who live in Wales can now get the morning-after pill free of charge from pharmacies across the country, while the rest of the UK still have to pay £25
The morning-after pill is free to women across the UK if prescribed by a doctor, but Wales is the first nation to offer the emergency contraception without charge on the high street.
The move also plans to enable communitypharmacists in Wales to give the morning-after pill to girls under 16, which has angered some ministers and campaignerswho believe pharmacists play a vital role in reducing unwanted pregnancies.
The change will affect 700 pharmacies, but Josephine Quintavalle, founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) says the move will encourageirresponsible attitudes to sex.
‘It’s absolutely the wrong way to address the problem,’ she warns. ‘The idea that young girls can just walk into a chemist will mean they become even less responsible about sexuality.’
Health minister Edwina Hart announced the move last November, saying she wanted professional advice available without appointmentand easily accessible within the 72-hour time-span necessary for emergency contraception to be mosteffective.
Dr Marina Arulanandam, from the Llandaff Surgery in Cardiff, says GPs and family planning clinics have a vital role in educating women about a whole range of issues including sexual health, ectopic pregnancies and side effects of possible medication.
‘It’s not just pregnancy they should worry about, it’s STDs, which is a huge problem that needs addressing and I don’t think the pharmacies will have enough time to do this,’ she says.
Community Pharmacy Wales defended the changes, claiming patients will be seen in consultation rooms and that the move was part of the government’s wider Sexual Health Action Plan to improve sexual health.
Should the morning-after pill be free and readily available? Do you think this move will encourage women to be more promiscuous? Whatever your thoughts, Marie Claire wants to hear from you.