Since Superdrug and Tesco recently lowered the prohibitive cost of the morning-after pill, to much applause from feminists everywhere, the pressure has been on their rival Boots to follow suit.
But the high-street pharmacy has announced it won't be slashing the price for fear that a cheaper pill would encourage overuse – a statement that many have described as patronising, moralising and sexist, and people have already announced they're boycotting the chain as a result.
Boots made the announcement in a letter to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which is calling on retailers to review their pricing of the emergency contraceptive. Currently at many retailers it is up to five times more expensive in the UK than elsewhere in Europe. But Boots said it wouldn't be cutting the price because it didn't want to be blamed for “incentivising inappropriate use”, the Guardian reported.
Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist of Boots UK, said that while the company had weighed up the issue, it wouldn't be lowering the price, for moral reasons. “In our experience the subject of emergency hormonal contraception polarises public opinion and we receive frequent contact from individuals who voice their disapproval of the fact that the company chooses to provide this service."
He continued: “We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product.”
Boots currently charges £28.25 for the Levonelle-branded morning-after pill and £26.75 for its own version, while it now costs around £13.50 in Superdrug and Tesco. BPAS described Boots's high pricing and its justification for doing so as “patronising and insulting”. Clare Murphy, its director of external affairs, said there is "no doubt" that the high price of the pill is "an absolute barrier to women’s access to this product and puts women needlessly at risk of unwanted pregnancy,” reported the Guardian.
The Women's Equality Party yesterday joined forces with BPAS in its Just Say Non campaign, which the charity launched last year to highlight the staggering cost of emergency contraception for British women compared to their European peers. While the morning-after pill is available for free at community pharmacies and NHS services, the party's leader, Sophie Walker, pointed out that it can be hard to get hold of at short notice.
"Many women will need to buy these pills over the counter, and it is irresponsible and exploitative for retailers to charge over the odds for them," Walker said. "This lack of consistency in the provision of women’s contraception threatens to undermine our reproductive rights and Boots’ approach to this concern is indicative of a society that prioritises profit over women’s health and wellbeing.”
People have taken to Twitter in droves to call Boots out for attempting to discourage women from using the product, with many suggesting the pricing would never be as high if men were able to get pregnant.
Many others called for a boycott and said they had already relinquished their loyalty to the company.
Not only does Boots's stance seemingly place judgement on women's sex lives, it also penalises women who need the emergency contraceptive because their chosen method failed – a situation that's all too common. A recent report by BPAS found that more than half of women who sought an abortion at its clinics last year had been using at least one form of contraception when they became pregnant.