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

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Christian Concern's Communications Officer, Camilla Olim, has commented on a new campaign by the British Advisory Service to make the 'morning after pill' cheaper and more easy to obtain.

She describes the campaign as deceptive, highlighting that it "plays on consumerism and individualism", while "downplaying responsibility."

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has launched a new campaign calling for the cost of the 'morning after pill' to be reduced, and for it to be made available on pharmacy shelves without the need for a medical consultation.

It follows another BPAS campaign earlier this year to decriminalise abortion, making it legal up to birth for any reason. This gained media attention after it emerged that Cathy Warwick, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for BPAS and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), had signed up the RCM to this campaign without the consent of the union's members.

The new campaign, 'Just Say Non', uses a short video to sell the idea, showing a woman waking up one morning to the realisation that she and her husband (the band on her ring finger suggests they are married) forgot to use a condom the night before.

Narrated by a friendly female voiceover, it follows her to the pharmacy where she stands in line, looking frazzled, and upon explaining the situation to the man behind the counter, receives withering stares from him and from the lady standing behind her.

After the woman reluctantly pays the £30 to obtain the pill, the voiceover suggests that the fee could cover a mini break to Paris instead, where she could purchase the pill much cheaper. The video shows her doing just that, enjoying some sightseeing, wine and croissants before skipping out of the pharmacy with her pill.

Such a comparison makes the whole thing seem like a no-brainer - why would you want to pay £30 for the 'morning after pill', when you could frolic in Paris instead?

The video's tone is friendly, light-hearted, and the narrator sounds truly sympathetic about the lady's predicament.

But in reality, this campaign is deeply deceptive.

Firstly, and most significantly, it completely whitewashes the reality of the 'morning after pill'. Although it is referred to in the video as 'emergency contraception', it actually has abortifacient qualities, which the NHS website clearly states. Last week, in a debate on Sky News, Christian Legal Centre client Aisling Hubert exposed this truth, much to the annoyance of her opponent during the debate, BPAS's Chief Executive Ann Furedi. 

Nowhere in the video is it suggested that using the pill is not simply a precaution, but in some cases, may destroy a human life.

'Just Say Non' centres on two main points: first, that women should neither be judged nor be held in any way accountable for their lifestyle choices, and second, that it is 'sexist' and unfair to charge £30 for the pill, when it can be obtained for less in other European countries. It is worth bearing in mind that France, the country shown in the video, is the fifth most adulterous country in the world. Whether the easy availability of the pill stems from this, or contributes to it, is impossible to say. But there is surely a correlation between a nation's moral stance on marriage and family, and its stance on the sanctity of life.

The video argues that for the sake of sparing a woman's embarrassment, she should be able to buy the pill without the need for consultation with a medical professional. As Aisling Hubert said on Sky News last week, it is important that professionals ask certain questions before providing the pill, such as the age of the woman, and what other medication she may be taking. What BPAS is proposing is irresponsible and possibly even dangerous.

After the woman in the video endures the sneering of the pharmacist and the cranky old lady behind her, she then looks dismayed to discover that she has to pay £30 for the pill.

The sober truth, though, is that precious lives, lives that God designed and had plans for, are being thrown away all over the country for the mere cost of £30; a week's worth of food shopping; less than a weekly London travel ticket. We should be asking why we're putting such a low price on human life, rather than complain that the pill is a relatively expensive drug.

The narrator then shows us what option 2 could look like – for the same price, she books a last minute mini break, by herself, to Paris and buys the pill over there, where they cost €7. Quite amusingly, the video tallies up the costs of her little trip, and claims she has money left over after returning home.

The description on the campaign web page claims: "The price [of the 'morning after pill'] was deliberately set high and a mandatory consultation introduced to prevent women from using it as a regular method of contraception. This is patronising and insulting."

On the contrary, such precautions are needed to prevent its overuse. Many women are not aware that the pill can be used as an abortifacient, and some women, particularly those who are younger, may not be aware that the 'morning after pill' does not offer protection against STIs. So it is vital that its availability is restricted. It is not patronising to protect young women especially from all the risks associated with taking the 'morning after pill' as a form of contraception – just as it isn't patronising to restrict the sale of alcohol or tobacco to young teenagers. The Department of Health, thankfully, has no plans to follow through with BPAS's proposals.

(As an aside, I'd be truly interested to know where I can buy a croissant in Paris for only 50 cents, or a glass of red wine for only €2, as the video suggests. Expecting women to believe that really is patronising and insulting).

BPAS has garnered a reputation for skirting around the truth on the matter of abortion, and this campaign is no exception. BPAS knows this campaign will be less appealing to some if it tells women that the pill is not just a method of contraception. So it distracts the viewer with shots of a smiling woman posing in front of the Eiffel Tower. It trivialises what is rightly a weighty matter. We shouldn't be acting as though it is as akin to buying paracetamol or some other over-the-counter drug.

This campaign plays, like most advertising, on consumerism and individualism. It glorifies individual rights, celebrates comfort and self-indulgence and downplays anything resembling responsibility. This campaign is all about you. It essentially says that not only should a woman have the right to potentially end a human life, but it should be done with as little inconvenience to her as possible. If she can do it after treating herself to a mini break in Paris, so much the better.

BPAS ostensibly tries to avoid the moral arguments when promoting its campaigns, but there is no neutral ground on the subject of pregnancy and abortion, nor is there neutral ground on sexual ethics.

As believers who value life as precious and God-given, we must find ways to reclaim the ground that the enemy has stolen. We as the Church must be willing to love and support women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy; to step in and offer alternatives when needed. And if all that seems daunting and we are looking for somewhere small to start, perhaps it's to tell the truth about the 'morning after pill'. 

Related Links: 
Just Say Non! (Just Say Non!) 
Adultery: Which countries are most unfaithful? (Mirror) 
Aisling Hubert debates BPAS Chief Executive on wider availability of the morning-after pill 


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