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Why Boots cutting the cost of emergency contraception is a victory

After years of campaigning by healthcare bodies and MPs to end the ‘grossly sexist surcharge,’ the British pharmacy chain has finally lowered the price of the morning after pill.

On Black Friday last year, British pharmacy chain Boots slashed the cost of emergency contraception, giving it a 50 per cent discount.

The deal, which was brought to people’s attention by a tweet and unsurprisingly met with substantial backlash for blatantly capitalising on women’s health, prompted the launch of a campaign to make the morning after pill more affordable and accessible to all.

It came on the back of years of criticism towards the exorbitant prices charged by retailers for this medication, which is meant to be taken after unprotected sex to try to prevent a pregnancy.

Unfortunately, though the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Labour MPs urged Boots not to restore the original price from £8 to between £15.99 and £56.50 once the sale ended, their calls for change were ignored on the condescending basis that doing so would ‘encourage inappropriate use.’

A kick in the teeth in light of the clear evidence of the staggering mark-up of a drug that costs just £2 to manufacture and the fact that big pharmacies can offer cheaper products when it’s in their own interests.

This only further motivated campaigners on a mission to do away with the ‘grossly sexist surcharge on something that women alone need,’ however, and three months later Boots has finally agreed to lower the cost of emergency contraception online and in store.

As of this week, it will be sold for £10, making it the most affordable option on the UK high street, even with Superdrug’s recent decision to follow suit.

‘Emergency contraception is a vital component of women’s healthcare and provides them with a safety net by preventing unwanted pregnancies yet the high-cost and clinically unnecessary requirement for a mandatory consultation can act as barriers that prevent them from accessing it when needed,’ says MP Diana Johnson, who led the campaign.

‘It is critical that any obstacles to accessing contraception are addressed and that the sexual and reproductive health of women is protected.’

For Johnson – and the campaign’s thousands of supporters – the move demonstrates both Boots’ commitment to improving female wellbeing and proof that women’s reproductive needs aren’t here for its profit margins.

While these barriers to access should never have existed in the first place (and a tenner is still an arguably steep price tag with the current cost of living crisis stretching incomes already) it will make a huge difference to those who need it most and go some way in closing the gender health gap.

Moving forward, the hope is that emergency contraception will be taken out from behind the counter once and for all and placed directly on the shelves where it belongs.

This is because although the morning after pill remains free on the NHS via sexual health clinics and most walk-in centres, the practical option to buy it makes it more available to women who are unable to make a same-day appointment due to work or childcare responsibilities.

‘Over the counter contraception is increasingly the only option women have access to when their usual method fails,’ finishes Johnson.

‘Funding and commissioning challenges have led to an overstretched and underfunded sexual and reproductive healthcare service that was not sustainably supported to provide care to women and girls either before or during a pandemic which is why it is such an important step that Boots have decided to scrap the sexist surcharge.’


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