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Monday 16 April 2012

My Emergency Contraception Service Experience

 "I had a horrible experience once when I needed some emergency contraception. I went to a Boots pharmacy which said on the door come here for emergency contraception. So I went in and asked and the woman pharmacist told me that due to her religious beliefs she was unable to serve me the morning after pill. Not only did the way she said it make me feel like a complete slut, it also meant that I came very close to not being able to get hold of any- which obviously could have lead to like, much bigger issues, especially as personally I don't think I'd ever get an abortion. 

I completely respect everyone's right to their own beliefs and opinions and while I would never judge anybody for their decisions I don't think it's right i get judged for mine- especially for people who are acting in a professional capacity. It was a bloody pharmacy and though she is perfectly entitled to her own beliefs i really don't think its fair she be working there if those beliefs interfere with her ability to do her job. There should at least be another pharmacist on duty when she is who is able to dispense emergency contraception. 

I'm a vegetarian but if I got a job at Tesco I wouldn't refuse to serve anybody buying meat. I don't like the idea of forcing people to act against their own principles however, so if there are doctors who really don't feel they can perform abortions, or pharmacists who don't feel they can dispense the morning after pill, as long as their personal belief doesn't inhibit my ability to get that service, I don't think it's a problem. so basically as long as there is always somebody else available at that time who can and will do it for me with the same competency and immediacy. I totally respect their opinions but i expect them to respect, if disagree with, mine."

"Before I discuss my personal experiences with contraception, I want to draw attention to the growing ‘hate’ against birth control, especially in America and increasingly here in the UK. In North Carolina a few weeks ago, New Hanover County Chairman Ted Davis spoke in rejection of a state grant to cover the costs of family-planning for those earning low wages. Ted Davis is quoted in the Wilmington Star-News as saying, “If [they were] responsible and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t have this problem”. Because having sex without contraception when you can’t afford a child or afford/don’t-want-to-have an abortion is responsible, right?

So, what are my experiences with contraception? I don’t live a country that is as obsessed with controlling women’s reproductive choices as America. Planning to be sexually active (woo-hoo!), and not wanting immediate children, I went to the nearest doctor’s surgery and asked about contraception. Hmm...they kept asking me if I was in a relationship. I was, but it really shouldn’t have mattered, seeing as they’d already cleared up the ‘Do-you-have-an-STD’ matter, cue scary nurse voice. Meh, decided not to press that point – really excited to be getting contraception. After more than a year of using the injection and then The Pill (cue capital letters for awesomeness) I took the advice of various nurses/doctors and took a short break from hormone contraception. Although STD’s were not an issue, I still did not want immediate children, so I, or rather my partner, used condoms.

This is where the story gets a little scary kids! One time the condom broke. ‘Aha’, I thought, ‘We’ll just pop down to Lloyd’s pharmacy and get the emergency contraception pill’. Well, that and ‘shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!’ With these two thoughts in mind, we headed to Lloyds. Now, I don’t have the ability to read minds, but I’m pretty sure some of you reading of this will have perhaps thought as I once did, that emergency contraception should be easy to get. You know, being all emergency and that. Hmm. Feeling (a lot) braver than I thought, I went straight up to the till, and I asked for what I wanted. The person at the counter freezes at my face (I did look young, but was at University age) and says in a cold voice that they ‘will need to talk to me in private’. Hmm, ominous. But, I think, they are just being professional. In my mind I am telling myself that I know they cannot sell/give the emergency contraception without assuring themselves that I am not pregnant, or underage. The private room I am taken to is not a private room; it is a small walled space with a door. A space stolen from the shop floor. It doesn’t seem very private, and later my partner says they could hear the discussion. Maybe the person at the counter did not approve of contraception, maybe they thought I was someone who had not used any contraception. I will never know. I will, however, always remember the cold and disbelieving look upon their face as they asked me whether I had ever used emergency contraception and my age. It was only when I asked with bright eyes, flushed face and controlled-annoyed voice whether they would need to see my licence ID in proof that they with shame? embarrassment? abruptly ended the interview and gave me what I wanted. I can’t even remember if I paid for it or not, I wanted to leave that shop as fast as I could.

Why did I not complain? Because I was relieved to receive the emergency birth-control. Because it was an uncomfortable encounter."

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  1. Hello, I live in the local area and am ex-rhul myself (I am part of a feminist organisation running out of north and south london - I would be interested to know which Boots this was? When I was eighteen I went into the Boots in Staines and the woman behind the counter tried very hard to convince me that I didn't need to take the morning after pill at all and that at my time of the month it was practically impossible for me to get pregnant. At the time I was pretty naive and thought that she probably knew better than me, and was simply trying to save me the money and a boat load of chemicals to the system - looking back on it I can only imagine her motives. I actually ended up seeking the pill elsewhere, but another girl may have relented and found herself in a terrible position.

    It is clearly outrageous that anyone should experience denial of service, and I am sure almost any woman seeking the morning after pill has experienced the stigma and distasteful scrutiny of staff. It is certainly a part of the wider assault taking place against womens reproductive rights - the rising tide of which is disconcerting to say the least. If RHUL femsoc would like to join forces with other feminist organisations to potentially target some of the worst offenders/organise a campaign around the issue then I am sure that would be well received. Demanding discreet, professional and prompt delivery of contraceptive services can only benefit us all. Our email is

  2. What that woman could have said to made you feel like a slut? Why you should feel like that? You called it uncomfortable encounter, Why you would feel that?


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