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Boots urged to drop huge sexist surcharge on emergency contraception

  • Boots charges £28.25 for Levonelle emergency contraceptive and £26.75 for its own generic version
  • Tesco now charges £13.50 for Levonelle, Superdrug £13.49 for a generic version
  • Boots has refused to cut the cost, saying it fears criticism from those who oppose women using emergency contraception

The Women’s Equality Party today joins forces with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) to call on Boots to cut the high price of its emergency contraceptive pills. Progestogen-based emergency contraception can cost up to five times more in the UK than elsewhere in Europe.

Superdrug and Tesco have already reduced the cost of the contraceptives to £13.50 – half the price charged in Boots stores – after BPAS wrote to ask them to review their pricing and offer women a more affordable product.

But Boots has so far refused to follow the example of these two major retailers, with the chain believing there may be complaints from those who oppose women's access to this safe and essential medicine, which gives women a second chance of avoiding unwanted pregnancy.

“Women should be able to access emergency contraception without being ripped off,” said Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party. “We know that emergency contraception can be difficult to access for free on the NHS, with appointments at GP surgeries or family planning clinics hard to obtain. 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. 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.”

Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

“It’s brilliant to see Superdrug and Tesco leading the way on this issue, providing women with an affordable product which they can use when their regular method lets them down. Improving women’s access to emergency contraception – including by reducing the price – improves women's physical and mental wellbeing, enabling them to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, which can pose a serious risk to their health.”

BPAS and WEP are surprised that Boots, which has enlisted celebrated feminist names in recent advertising campaigns such as the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, does not feel able to offer women a more affordable product on the basis that a small number of people who think women should face the consequences of an episode of unprotected sex might complain.

“Most people believe women should be able to access emergency contraception from pharmacies at an affordable price.  We urge Boots to listen to them, reconsider their stance, and do the right thing by the women who shop in their stores everyday,” said Clare Murphy. “Boots needs to drop this hugely sexist surcharge.”   

ENDS

Editors’ notes:

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. Last year, BPAS launched the Just Say Non campaign to highlight the high price of emergency contraception in the UK compared with other European countries.

The Women’s Equality Party considers any denial of reproductive rights to be an act of violence and will always oppose any attempt to limit access to contraception, termination or medical support during pregnancy.

At its first party conference in November 2016, the party passed a motion that called upon the Houses of Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and all devolved bodies responsible for healthcare to:

  1. Meet their obligation to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights by increasing the provision of good-quality sexual and reproductive health services, including access to all forms of contraception and emergency contraception.
  2. Ring-fence money for contraceptive services.
  3. Conduct an inquiry into the cost of over-the-counter emergency contraception.

The Women’s Equality Party was established two years ago to highlight and dismantle obstacles to gender equality in the UK: a political and economic architecture rigged against women and diversity, an education system riven with unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, a media that reinforces these stereotypes, a society that assigns little value to caregiving and therefore assumes it to be women’s business, that underpays women and invests less in women's health and permits endemic harassment and violence against women.

The Party currently has 65,000 members and registered supporters. It aims to put equality for women at the top of the national political agenda by being an electoral force that also works with other political parties; in addition to party membership it also offers joint memberships to members of other political parties.

 

For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377, 07788 725185 or press@bpas.org