Comment & Reviews
prescribing emergency contraception
By Maxine Lattimer
On 8 July, BPAS launched a new scheme to provide women with
emergency contraception before the emergency. Women will now
be able to book appointments at BPAS centres, and after consultation
with medical staff, obtain emergency contraception in advance
BPAS spokeswoman Ann Furedi said: ``Women know about the morning-after
pill but are not using it. We think the problem is that many
women have problems making appointments to get it. We think
women are far more likely to use emergency contraception if
they have it to hand. We are concerned about unwanted pregnancies,
and emergency contraception has a part to play because it
gives women a second chance."
Part of the reason BPAS launched the scheme is findings of
research carried out by the World Health Organisation which
showed the morning-after pill was more effective if taken
within 12 hours of having unprotected sex. Ian Jones, chief
executive of BPAS, said that although emergency contraception
works for 72 hours after having unprotected sex, it is 50
per cent more effective if taken within the first 12 hours.
``Emergency contraception is not a mini abortion but prevents
pregnancy in the same way the combined pill does,'' he said.
Some media coverage of the scheme failed to highlight the
benefits advance prescribing can bring for women with busy
lives, choosing instead to focus on contraception and teenagers.
The main beneficiaries of the scheme are in fact likely to
be older. Since many women, particularly working women, find
getting an appointment to see their GP that quickly difficult,
the BPAS scheme means that emergency contraception can nevertheless
be easily accessible to them.
Predictably, critics of the scheme associated with pro-life
organisations responded by suggesting that advance prescribing
would encourage women to have unprotected sex. However, a
recent study carried out in Scotland showed that if women
were given emergency contraceptives to keep at home they used
them sensibly, and did not stop using their usual method of
contraception. The number of unwanted pregnancies were also
reduced. Ann Furedi rejected criticisms the service could
encourage women to have unprotected sex. She said: ``If you
have a fire extinguisher in your home nobody argues that it
causes you to set your house on fire. The fact people have
access to emergency contraception doesn't cause people to
have unprotected sex.''
The BPAS has a network of 40 clinics around Britain. It's
action line is on 08457 304030.