In a fortnight in which the morality of abortions – be they post-20 weeks or in Belfast – has been called into question, launching a new over-the-counter morning after pill might not seem the wisest move. And yet it’s happened. Behold then EllaOne, a £30 contraceptive pill which is effective up to 5 days after sex, and which is available in selected branches of Co-Op pharmacy. Until now it has only been possible to get the pill with a prescription from your GP.
Naturally, the usual bevy of critics are contesting its launch, among them pro-life and family values groups all of whom are predicting ‘unprecedented levels’ of unprotected sex. One pro-life group called it an ‘abortive agent'. The Daily Mail have even dubbed this the ‘promiscuity pill’.
All of which seem fantastically outdated. Personally, I feel there are many, many reasons why a ‘five mornings after pill’ is brilliant. If, say, you have sex on holiday/ away from anywhere with a Boots – it’s always seemed fairly insulting that women are unable to get the MAP in advance of need. Or, like one friend of a friend, you have sex with a condom except that the condom broke but you only discovered this when cleaning out your bin on rubbish-day. Much as we like to ignore it, irresponsible sex happens. And what’s more, women have a de facto right to contraception if they want it.
Then, of course, there are those cases of sexual assault. The fact that a woman has to even concern herself with procuring a morning after pill quite literally the morning after, doesn’t bear thinking about - especially when you think of just how few women actually report rapes in the first place. That’s not to say it’s easy to get to a pharmacy four days later, but still, if it lessens the blow even the tiniest bit then we should be all for it.
When pharmacists first began selling the ‘morning-after pill’ in 2000, there was an outcry. In the subsequent months, government legislation ensured emergency contraception was available in pharmacies everywhere to women over the age of 16 and pro-life groups tried to take the government to task But by 2012, it’s almost become the norm. Indeed a straw poll reveals that I’m the only person among my female friends not to have taken it.
Why? Because the point remains: men and women will continue to have unprotected sex for all the usual illogical, sometimes sad, often stupid reasons people do. Sexual assault will also continue to happen and women will continue to not report it for all the horrible, horrible reasons that have prevented them thus far. And with the current furore surrounding abortions and cut-off dates rumbling on it seems bizarre to discourage something that could prevent someone having to make a far more traumatic and damaging decision further down the line. After all, adult women have a right to contraception.