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Boots downtrodden following morning-after pill statement

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Regan King comments on the pressure Boots has come under for wishing to maintain its current price of the morning-after pill, despite calls from BPAS to lower it. He describes Boots' concerns as "right, logical, and lawful", urging the public to email Boots chief Marc Donovan asking him not to capitulate to BPAS' demands.


High street chemist and retailer Boots has come under fire for its pricing of the morning-after pill. The well-established nationwide retailer carries its own brand of the pill for £26.25 and sells the leading brand, Levonelle (produced by Bayer), for £28.25. Rival retailers Super Drug and Tesco sell the pill for around £13.50 following a campaign by Britain's leading abortion provider, BPAS, after previously having a higher price tag themselves.

Following changes to Tesco and Super Drug's pricing, pressure has been on Boots to lower their own price. In a letter to BPAS, however, Boots Chief Pharmacist Marc Donovan explained why Boots would not be lowering the price. Donovan said

In our experience, the subject of emergency hormonal contraception polarises public opinion and we receive frequent contact from individuals who voice their disapproval of the fact that the company chooses to provide this service…We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product.

Unsurprisingly Donovan's statement has received a great deal of backlash from BPAS, other radical pro-abortion groups, and the ever present and always angry white middle-class extreme liberal feminists of twitter. The backlash did facilitate an apology from Boots in which the company claimed to be 'truly sorry' for its comments that 'caused offence and misunderstanding.'

But does Boots really need to be sorry for its statement?


A matter of rights and what is right

There are two relevant considerations in this discussion – a matter of legal rights and a matter of what is morally right. Does Boots, as an independent chain of high street chemists, have the right to charge a price for the morning-after pill within legal guidelines as it sees fit? It does. Is Boots right to appreciate and highlight ethical concerns shared by many of its customers in its provision of the morning-after pill?  It is. Does Boots have the right to refuse to cater to BPAS and other extreme lobby groups' pressure to lower its morning-after pill prices? It does. Is Boots right to prioritise authorised healthcare consultations and encourage more responsible attitudes to sexual activity? It is. Does Boots have the legal right and is it morally right for Boots to consider risks both of incentivising inappropriate use as well as desensitising members of the public to inappropriate use of the pill, factoring its considerations it to its pricing policy? It has that right and it is right.


Getting the terms right

Levonelle (known as Plan B in the USA) and other store brand equivalents of the morning-after pill are to be distinguished both from the range of other oral contraceptive pills (taken daily and referred to commonly as 'the pill') and the abortion pill. The daily pill is designed to control the woman's hormones and hinder ovulation and fertilization. The abortion pill, known to the medical profession as RU486 or mifepristone, is specifically designed to abort the new life that is already present in the womb.

The morning-after pill contains levonorgestrel, which falls between these two discussed pills in its potency. Like the normal birth control pill, it can prevent both ovulation and fertilization (occurring between 30 minutes and 5 days following intercourse), but it can also prevent implantation of an already fertilised egg – a newly conceived human being. Studies and thoughts vary on the likelihood of the pill functioning in this abortive way and there is some debate even within conservative Christian circles.


Political Pressure

While Boots did come under attack by BPAS and other pro-abortion feminist groups as the result of Marc Donovan's statement, the parliamentary response was probably most significant. 35 female Labour Party MPs, including Stella Creasy, Harriet Harman, and Yvette Cooper, signed a letter calling for Boots to back down from its statement and lower its pricing on the morning-after pill or to face a boycott. Yvette Cooper took to Twitter to voice her disapproval interpreting Donovan's statement as

Patronising and pathetic – keeping emergency contraception price too high cos (sic) you don't trust women and are scared of critics.

In a culture that already faces crippling levels of promiscuity and the effects of casual sex, it is right, logical, and lawful for Marc Donovan to express Boots' pricing considerations as he has. Caving to BPAS' pressure by lowering the price as Tesco and Super Drug have done, would be irresponsible and would fail to uphold the ethical standards in place since Boots' foundation in 1849 by the Boot family, who were themselves Methodists.


A call to action

Much has been said against Marc Donovan's statement and Boots' policy on maintaining its price of the morning-after pill, but little has been done to express public approval for Boots' desire to act responsibly and encourage others to do so more themselves. Please click here to write a simple and polite email to Marc Donovan asking him not to capitulate to BPAS' demands. Remind Mr. Donovan of the very real controversy and legitimate concerns surrounding the morning-after pill, which he has also acknowledged. Ask him to continue to maintain Boots’ high price for the morning-after pill, or consider for removing it from Boots' stock altogether. 



Related Links:
BPAS's 'morning after pill' campaign: Deceptive and irresponsible



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