Should the morning after pill be sold over the counter like ordinary medicines

The morning after pill is a form of emergency contraception. It is a high dosage of the pill, which can be taken up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse at present it is around 74% effective. It can be given as progesterone alone, oestrogen alone or both of these combined. When taken if the woman is pregnant this would kill her unborn child. They work by either inhibiting ovulation, so the egg will not be released. Altering the normal menstrual cycle so that ovulation is delayed or by imitating the lining of the uterus, this means the baby will die before it attaches to the lining of the uterus.

However, like with everything there are side effects, these include vomiting, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, breast tenderness and even blood clot formation. They also offer no protection against STD’s or STI’s. People view the use of the morning after pill in different ways; some believe that it is unethical because it is killing a life. Others believe that it can be justified because it is better to kill a life than to bring a child up in an environment where it is unwanted. In this essay I am going to investigate the positives and negatives of selling the morning after pill over the counter to anyone who asks for it (over the age of 16).

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The morning after pill has been available over the counter to women over the age of 16 since the beginning of January last year in Britain, now more than a third of all emergency contraception is dispensed in this way. Some people believe that this move is a “… a quick fox by a Government bent on reducing teenage pregnancy and abortion rates. ” (ref 9). This has caused much controversy; the main argument against this new scheme comes from SPUC (The society for the protection against unborn children).

They believe that pregnancy begins when the egg is fertilised by the sperm and the pill causes women to have a miscarriage by preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb. If this is the case then the morning after pill will be breaking the 1861 Offences against the person Act which prohibits the supply of any ‘poison or noxious thing’ with intent to cause miscarriage (see ref 1). They also stated that “… the drug company and the pro-abortion lobby have not been able to deny… that the early developing human embryo is killed by this drug. ” to enforce their argument.

However, the court argued against the fact that the morning after pill would be breaking the 1861 offences act. Mr James Munby (the judge) decided, “… women are not legally pregnant before that stage and therefore the medication did not cause a miscarriage. ” The UK government also claimed “… the morning after pill is non abortifacient because pregnancy only starts when an embryo implants in the womb. ” (see ref 7). If SPUC did win the battle the morning after pill would have to be prescribed by two doctors and the law would have affected other forms of contraception, such as IUD’s and the mini-pill (ref 1).

This would criminalize 4. 5m women immediately and would mean that women would have to go to more trouble to get help with family planning. Dr. Sheila Dunn says “There isn’t a lot of reason to require a prescription for it. ” (ref 6), so making it available over the counter should not cause any problems. Ann Furedi of the ‘British Pregnancy Advisory service’ believes that “… women should be allowed to benefit from modern sciences of contraception. ” Therefore it would be a great help if women had easy access to ‘modern science technology’ so that we could move with the times and accept that science can be used to benefit people.

Another argument against the legalisation of emergency contraception being sold over the counter is that pharmacists cannot check medical records. A doctor could easily check a woman’s state of health and medical history that would show if they had anything which might make taking morning after pills dangerous. For example people with a family history of thrombosis, high blood pressure, strokes, focal migraine and hereditary blood cholesterol should not take the morning after pill (see ref 7). Similarly it would be hard for pharmacists to tell if a girl is under 16.

This point is backed up by Brook’s figures which show for 1994-95 more than 7,000 of their clients were under 16, and nearly 2,500 were given the morning after pill (ref 7). The MCFL (Massachusetts Citizens For Life) argues that the “Morning After Pill would be passed out like antacids” as there is also no limit on how often the pills can be used; consequently some women could be taking high-dose hormones regularly. This may increase the frequency of catastrophic side effects of these drugs, e. g blood clots and strokes (ref 8).

The MCFL also mentions the point that the wide availability of the morning after pill may mislead people into thinking that it prevents against STD’s. They say, “… 65 million are currently infected with an STD. The STD epidemic will continue to grow. ” (ref 8), meaning that if the morning after pill is more accessible, people will be influenced not to use other forms of contraception which help prevent STD’s, such as condoms. However, the morning after pill has also been found to be safe and effective, it has been given to women since the 1970’s and severe side effects are very rare (ref 2).

The Family Planning Association (FPA) argues that “… it is a right that it should be made widely available to women. ” (ref 5), therefore they back the idea of over the counter sales. Figures show that the number of pills distributed very year in health clinics have decreased by 15% (ref 4), this shows that women are obtaining the pill from a range of sources. The FPA believes that “This is good because we want emergency contraception to be readily available”, so women can have more control over what they do to their body.

This could happen to many women throughout the country, therefore if the morning after pill is available over the counter some on these psychological problems would be resolved. A story from Shelley Taylor from Halifax also backs over the counter sales of the pill (ref 6). She waited 7 hours in a hospital emergency room to get emergency contraception, after the condom her and her partner used broke. Her doctor was not available to write a prescription for her. She said “It’s a little demoralizing when you know exactly what you need to take care of yourself and its not available to you.

If she could have gone to her local chemist and purchased the pill it would not only have saved a lot of time but also a lot of anxious feelings- she started “… getting really, really nervous. ” The resources I used for fairly bias for both positive and negative aspects of the issue, for example SPUC would be trying to prevent abortions and the FPA would want to encourage any methods of family planning. From comparing and contrasting the information I gathered from various sources I have came up with a conclusion. I think that women and girls will benefit from the morning after pill being sold ‘over the counter’.

I have this view because I think that it is important that children are not brought up in an environment where they are unwanted or where they are not given all of the attention they deserve. I also think that it prevents unwanted abortions during the later stages of pregnancy, not only is this better for the mothers emotions it is also better for the NHS as they will have to deal with less abortion cases. However, even though I do agree with selling emergency contraception over the counter I think that there should be tighter regulations on it.

It is hard to find out if the woman taking the pill has any medical conditions so I think to try and overcome this problem all women and girls who ask for the morning after pill should be told about any dangers and how it works. The government could also incorporate a program into teenager’s sex education lessons to give them more information on emergency contraception, how it works (i. e. killing a foetus) and what to in an emergency. Thus, enabling women and girls to make an appropriate decision from the beginning.

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