When we made the morning-after-pill available from pharmacists without the need for a doctor’s prescription the change took place without any debate. We never asked whether the number of unwanted pregnancies would come down as a result, or what effect it would have on women’s health, or the effect it would have on sexual behaviour.
The answer to the first question is that no study has ever shown that a reduction in the number of unwanted pregnancies has followed from making the morning-after-pill (an abortifacient by the way) more easily available.
In answer to the second question, we don’t yet know what effect repeated use of the morning-after-pill will have on women’s health.
In answer to the third question, the answer seems to be that its easy availability is putting more pressure on women to have sex when they don’t really want to.
Last weekend, The Sunday Times magazine ran as its cover story a feature with the headline, ‘Oops, I took it again: The morning-after-pill, girls and casual sex’.
It consisted of interviews with older British teenagers and the picture which emerges is that the morning-after-pill has made it harder than ever for them to say no when boys are pressuring them into having sex.
Here are some of the more revealing quotes from a selection of girls:
“Most times I feel pressure to have sex. It’s about people-pleasing. I thought that if I didn’t, they’d do it anyway. If you say, ‘But you haven’t got a condom’, they just say, ‘Go down the clinic and get the morning-after-pill’.”
“Sometimes it’s easier just to give in and have sex rather than have them punch you in the head, then you just get the morning-after-pill.”
“I took the morning-after-pill when I was 13 because I was too young to even think of getting pregnant. I thought I was being responsible. But the boys push you into sex by saying you can take it the next day.”
“What does love look like? It doesn’t exist, it’s just sexual attraction. They only want one thing, then they leave.”
There are also some revealing quotes about the sex education they received in school.
“The lessons were a joke. There was a male teacher sucking a femidom [a female condom] and a song to the tune of a Lily Allen track, all about ‘putting my willy inside of you’. It was all sex is fun, and don’t get sexually transmitted infections. They told us to use condoms.”
“It’s like schools are promoting sex. It was all saying, ‘Sex is fun, go do it, just be safe.’ That summer when we were 12, after we’d had the sex education at school, lots of friends went on to do things that were sexual and inappropriate. There was nothing about relationships, or intimacy, or trust, or love, or saying girls should wait and they didn’t have to do it, or encouraging them not to.”
And finally, this quote:
“Rather than talking about contraception [in school] they should be saying, ‘Respect yourself. Be proud to say, ‘I’m a virgin – you ain’t getting me tonight’.”
These quotes speak for themselves. The morning-after-pill has made it even easier to separate sex from commitment.