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A bitter pill

Women and girls are losing medical advice and safeguards in the name of “freedom”

Artillery Row

Under current law, British women may only obtain the morning-after pill following a compulsory consultation with a pharmacist. Now, a slew of organisations focused on providing or educating on “family planning” including the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), are pushing for the law to downgrade this powerful hormonal drug to the same category as mild painkillers so it can be purchased off the shelf.

This is a long-running hobby for such groups, with a 2019 report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists previously recommending that the morning-after pill also be sold off the shelf alongside pregnancy tests and condoms. In their statement on the matter, BPAS stressed that the drug “protects women against pregnancy, a condition which can seriously affect women’s physical and mental health – as well as her personal safety.” 

But how many women are not told the full implications before being pushed toward body-altering drugs, including the morning-after pill?

There is no doubt that pregnancy is a physically and psychologically intense process, especially for women who experience complications or are in unideal socioeconomic circumstances, however, BPAS’ language appears to regard unborn children as a disease which women must rid themselves of.

While FSRH and BPAS are backed and staffed by many trained medics, they are not non-partisan expert bodies, and their names may suggest, but highly potent political lobbies. Likewise, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a professional association including members with and without medical degrees, and which people in related jobs can choose whether or not to join. Their push for access to “emergency contraception”, at any moral or medical cost, is a political project, not a medical scientific one. 

It has parallels with the successful push by the abortion lobby, which BPAS essentially spearheads, for “pills by post”, which allows women to receive both pills required for abortions before 10 weeks gestation, without an in-person consultation. Ahead of the plan’s rollout, those of us who warned it would open up the system to abuse and dangerous late-term abortions were dismissed as misogynistic fuddy-duddies, regardless of whether we were women ourselves. When it was clear that this had occurred under the system, BPAS’ solution? Blaming their detractors, and calling for yet more abortion access

Others are less than concerned about the medical impacts of hormonal contraceptives, with Daily Mail columnist Jenni Murray proclaiming: “I’m GLAD I took the pill, even if there’s a chance it caused my breast cancer,” despite a fresh study linking hormonal contraceptives to heightened cancer risk among women. 

Most would agree that Murray is free to make this judgement about her own life. But how many women are not told the full implications before being pushed toward body-altering drugs, including the morning-after pill? How many more could be unsuitably pushed down this path if this campaign gets its way?

In some small way, the tide may already be changing. Many young women in particular are turning away from hormonal contraception, with The hashtags #gettingoffbirthcontrol and naturalbirthcontrol garnering tens of millions of views. In October 2022, a survey from Stowe Family Law concluded that 63 per cent of women had ceased using some form of contraception due to impacts on their relationship. Nine in 10 women on hormonal birth control reported a change in their physical or mental physical health.

Women and girls are finding it harder and harder to verbalise what they instinctively feel is wrong for them

Patients must fully understand why the morning-after pill is only medically suitable for occasional “emergencies”, and is not suitable as a long-term means of avoiding pregnancy. If a woman ingests the five-day effective morning-after pill this reduces the effectiveness of other hormonal contraception she might use across the following weeks, making her more fertile. For a woman attempting to avoid pregnancy, this is surely a risk that ought to be explained.

Surely it is the job of a pharmacy or GP to ensure that these factors are understood, and why is this the case? If a young woman or even a girl is purchasing or attempting to purchase emergency hormonal contraception, especially if more regularly than recommended, why? Is she being abused by a boyfriend, family member or teacher? Is she uneducated about contraception? What if a woman, girl, man or boy buys it for someone else? Why cheer on the removal of safeguards against these issues, if you claim to be merely concerned with “health”?

In her groundbreaking  Case Against the Sexual Revolution, journalist Louise Perry stresses how so-called hook-up culture, enabled by the medical watershed of hormonal in contraception, has irreparably damaged modern relationships, and allows women and girls to be pressured into casual sex. She also warns how the penetration of these fashionable opinions à la BPAS are so ingrained in our culture and education system, that women and girls are finding it harder and harder to verbalise what they instinctively feel is wrong for them.

Of course, to question the myth of “consequence-free” sex permitted by modern contraception and abortion methods is an unadulterated good is to already make one a persona non grata in the liberal bubble these campaigners inhabit, and yet, it clearly still needs pointing out.

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