The morning after pill: “emergency contraception in advance”

Posted on May 25, 2010


Morning after pill, or baby? You decide

When I was learning about contraception in school from either my blushing form tutor or equally uncomfortable biology teacher, I learned that the morning after pill is just that: for the morning after. For emergencies.

For that oh-crap-it-happened-but-I-don’t-want-a-baby moment. For those times when all your other very safe methods of contraception fail.

Which is why a call by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to make the morning after pill available for “young women” to keep at home to use as and when they need it makes me a little uncomfortable. The idea of getting emergency contraception in advance seems something of a contradiction – pre-empting that an accident will happen. If you suspect that accident might happen, why not buy condoms instead? Or go on the pill?

Of course, the huge numbers of teenagers falling pregnant isn’t great, especially considering that nearly half of all pregnancies in 15-18 year olds lead to abortion. Then again, that means that just over half of those lead to a miscarriage or a baby – neither of which would be particularly easy for a young woman (or girl) to deal with. But providing young women – for free – with the morning after pill in advance seems to encourage the very message that health organisations generally want to dispel. It is not a regular form of contraception. It is not a sensible approach.

The long-term effects of it aren’t even known yet – who knows what the physical or psychological implications will be in years to come. Listening to a radio show on LBC earlier, various callers were bringing up this point along with others: that the general approach of promiscuity among young women was fuelling the problem, that we need more education in our schools, etc. Far too many issues to fully explore. Very little about the male responsibility in all this, though. Boys and girls can be as promiscuous as they like, but only the female is ever going to end up potentially giving birth. Which shifts the burden of responsibility somewhat unfairly.

It’s only a proposal at the moment, but something about it just doesn’t feel right to me. But then the attempts at sex education in this country so far have mainly taught kids that the best way to get a house is to get a baby.

Image from Jenice Ray‘s photostream @ Flickr.

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