So perhaps Boots was not standing on especially high moral ground. Claiming it was keeping the price of emergency birth control (aka the morning after pill) high on the grounds that cutting prices might encourage misuse of the drug was somewhat hypocritical given that they have long been happy to provide it free of charge even to underage girls as long as the Government is paying for it. Not without reason did campaigners on both sides of the debate suspect that Boots was more worried about profits than discouraging “inappropriate use” of the drug.
Sure enough, Boots was quick to crumble at the first sign of pressure from pro-abortion groups and the mainstream press. The BBC was naturally at the heart of this pressure, giving Clare Murphy of BPAS the gentlest of interviews on Saturday’s Today Programme last Saturday. John Humphrys did not think it was worthwhile providing even the slightest challenge, despite the fact that the BPAS rake in millions of pounds each year from the taxpayer to provide abortions.
A starting point might have to discuss the likelihood that a possible mechanism of action of some types of emergency birth control (EBC) is to prevent the very early embryo from implanting. In other words, in some cases the drug may cause a very early abortion. Further, if Humphrys had even a small amount of journalistic instinct, he might have wondered why BPAS were so keen on promoting (EBC) if it is going to make unwanted pregnancies less likely. A quick search of the academic literature would have given him a clue: it doesn’t.
A string of research articles from different countries and using methodologies varying from randomised controlled trials to population studies has concluded that easier access to emergency birth control does not lead to lower rates of abortion or even teenage pregnancy. That’s not all: research by Professor Sourafel Girma and myself has found that providing EBC free of charge to teenagers in pharmacies led to a significant increase in teen STIs. The same result has been found in the US, see here and here. Of course, BPAS are aware of this. Earlier this month, Anne Furedi, their Chief Executive admitted that “Claims that contraceptive services can prevent abortion are a convenient lie peddled by wishful thinkers who know nothing of method failure rates”.
The hypocrisy is astounding. The message from BPAS and other so-called ‘sexual health’ groups seems to be: pay us to provide girls with contraceptive pills or condoms and, when these fail, pay us to give them the morning after pill. And when that doesn’t work, you can pay us even more to give them abortions.
But even that is not the worst of the story. The recent report from the Family Education Trust revealed in devastating detail how schemes to provide emergency birth control and other forms of contraception to underage girls without parental knowledge have facilitated the systematic sexual abuse and exploitation of young, vulnerable girls across the country. Consider this heartbreaking extract from the 2016 Bristol Serious Case Review about a young victim of sexual abuse:
“she was amazed that at just 13 years old she was given the morning after pill by her GP. She said that at the time she wanted to say something more about what was happening but felt everything she said was taken at face value, on another occasion she says she had bruises and scratches on her thighs (she had been raped) but was never examined … she wanted someone to be more curious.”
Let’s spell it out: Government policy is that taxpayers’ money should be given to pharmacies, GPs and sexual health organisations for a measure that does not reduce abortions, increases STIs and facilitates the abuse and exploitation of young girls. Yet the chorus from MPs, the press and social media is that emergency birth control is some sort of liberation for women. Pull the other one.
(Professor David Paton holds a Chair in Industrial Economics at Nottingham University Business School and has published widely in the area of Government policy on teenage pregnancy)