Katherine O'Brien, Associate Director of Communications and Campaigns, said:
"We know that women are experiencing significant barriers when trying to access their usual method of contraception. Many sexual health services have been forced to close due to COVID-19 and are therefore unable to provide long-acting methods such as the contraceptive implant or coil. The huge pressure on GP surgeries can also cause delays in accessing the contraceptive injection. As a result, we are seeing increasing numbers of women seeking abortion care since the lockdown was introduced.
"To protect women’s ability to prevent pregnancy during Covid-19 while access to contraceptive services is disrupted and they may be unable to travel in person to a pharmacy, emergency hormonal contraception should be reclassified by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care as a general sales list medication. This would ensure women could buy the medication directly from the shelf from pharmacies and other locations where medicines are sold without the need for a face-to-face consultation with a pharmacist which may be impossible to conduct while also observing social-distancing measures. Emergency contraception is sold directly from the shelf in North America (both the US and Canada) and in several European countries including Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway, and there is no reason why women in this country should not have the same swift access to this safe and effective medication.
"However, the rise in the numbers of women seeking abortion care may also be reflective of the huge uncertainty of the current climate. Unplanned does not necessarily mean unwanted, and some women will be much more wary about continuing a pregnancy if they become pregnancy accidentally due to completely understandable concerns about financial and job stability going forward."
bpas is a charity which sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/