14 December 2007

The pill available from chemists?

This is some news which should fill you with Christmas cheer. Anything which widens access to contraception is good with me.

But, a couple of years ago, I needed to buy the morning after pill. I went into one pharmacy, actually it was a Sainsbury's pharmacy, and requested that I speak to the chemist about the morning after pill. The assistant went away and spoke to him, and then came back and told me that he would not come to speak to me "because it was against his beliefs, and he thought that emergency contraception was immoral". Several things incensed me about this:

1) He was male. My general view on issues to do with female reproduction is no uterus = no opinion. He is in the very privileged position of never worrying that he might be pregnant when he doesn't want to be.

2) He did not have the courage in his convictions to come and tell me himself. Instead he got his assistant to do his dirty work for him.

3) OK, he absolutely has a right to hold those views. I am not arguing with that. But, if you are not prepared to fulfill your duties as a chemist, then find another job.

4) It was fucking 5.30 in the sodding afternoon. I did not have the option to go somewhere else that day. (Luckily, I still had time to get up early the next morning, and go to the chemist, so all was well for me :-)) What if I had been at the end of the 72 hours when the pill is effective? He could well have been partially responsible for me having to make an extremely difficult decision, which (certainly according to his world-view) would be much more ethically murky.

So, although I think that this is potentially good news, I am worried that obstructive pharmacists like the one I met will prevent women from accessing the pill as easily as they should be able to. We'll have to wait and see!

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