“We would not want to be accused of incentivizing inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product.”
So wrote Boots chief pharmacist Marc Donovan in a letter to bpas. To what dangerous, immoral drug could he possibly be referring?
Emergency contraception, of course! That is, a safe and essential medicine, which gives women a second chance of avoiding unwanted pregnancy.
Today, if a woman at a Boots pharmacy needs emergency contraception she will pay up to double what she would’ve had she been at a Tesco or a Superdrug, who have both cut their prices over the last month after bpas wrote to them to ask them to review their pricing and offer woman a more affordable product. But Boots refuses to follow their example, keeping their cost at £28.25 for Levonelle (the name-brand pill) and £26.75 for their own generic brand.
Why? For fear of those with an ideological opposition to emergency contraception.
The idea that a leading high-street pharmacy would base their policies on the views of a tiny minority who do not believe women should be able to control their fertility is simply absurd. It’s also difficult to believe that in 2017 anyone would think that lowering the cost of emergency contraception would encourage women to use it “inappropriately.” Women across Europe, where emergency contraception is up to five times cheaper, are apparently capable of “appropriate” use. Boots’ assumption that UK women are incapable of making decisions about their own bodies is, quite frankly, sexist and offensive. Women do not need anyone to make their reproductive decisions for them.
This attitude is especially disappointing coming from a company which has purported to be a champion of women in the past. They have enlisted celebrated feminist names, such as the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in recent advertising campaigns. Yet when it comes to making a change that would actually help women access vital reproductive health care, Boots is resolute in its refusal.
Boots isn’t owning up to the storm of criticism it’s now facing, instead emphasising the importance of the pharmacist consultation required to purchase the morning after pill. This is, indeed, beside the point – Superdrug and Tesco are of course still implementing the same requisite pharmacist consultation. Making the pill more affordable to women seems not to inhibit their ability to do so, despite what Boots might state.
The move by Superdrug and Tesco to make emergency contraception more accessible is an important step forward, and they should be applauded. Women can obtain emergency contraception free on the NHS, but for a medication which is crucially time-sensitive, that often is not a feasible option. And for many, the high cost of emergency contraception at high street retailers is prohibitive. Superdrug and Tesco have now made a change to remedy this reproductive injustice.
But not Boots. They have a tiny, anti-contraceptive, sexist minority to worry about – at the expense of every woman who goes there in need of this important medication.