WOMEN should be allowed to buy the morning after pill "straight off the shelf" like condoms, doctors say.
Top medical experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists believe that women and girls should be able to get hold of emergency contraception more easily.
And they claim there are currently too many barriers to health services for women in the UK.
Their report, titled Better for Women, is also calling for a network of one-stop health clinics for women, offering smear tests, contraceptives and advice all in one place.
Currently, women and girls have to have a consultation with a pharmacist before the can be given an emergency contraceptive, or morning after pill.
The RCOG report claims that this can leave them feeling "uncomfortable, embarrassed or judged".
Over the counter
And doctors are now calling on the morning after pill to be made available "in front of the counter" and off the shelf, alongside pregnancy tests and condoms.
Emergency contraception is available free of charge without prescription from all pharmacies in Scotland and Wales.
In England, contraception services are commissioned locally and are on offer in sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries and most pharmacies – but are not always free of charge.
The report also says the progestogen-only contraceptive pill, taken once a day, to be available over the counter in pharmacies instead of with a prescription from a GP.
It says girls and women should be able to order the pills online like any other pharmacy product.
Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the progestogen-only contraceptive pill (Pop) was very safe, and a consultation with a GP before starting to take it was "unnecessary".
She added: "Too many women are spending years in pain and discomfort because [GP] appointment times are too short and demands on the time of doctors and other healthcare professionals are too great.
"This makes women less likely to talk about their issues."
Too many women are spending years in pain and discomfort because appointment times are too short and demands on the time of doctors and other healthcare professionals are too great
RGOG has also called on women to be allowed to carry out early abortions at home.
It says women should be offered a Skype or phone consultation with a doctor.
They would then collect the tablets from their nearest pharmacy and be able to take them from the “comfort and convenience” of their own home.
The abortion pill is two separate medicines, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are administered separately.
Until last year, those wanting to terminate a pregnancy before ten weeks' gestation had to take the two drugs at a medical centre – 24 to 48 hours apart.
Where can I get the morning after pill for free?
The NHS provide free morning after pills. You can pick them up in the following places:
- Contraception clinics
- Most sexual health/GUM clinics
- Most GP surgeries
- Most NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units
- Some hospital A&Es
- Brook centres
- Some pharmacies – search for your closest one here
You will still need to see a doctor or nurse to get the pill, so you may have a fairly long wait in walk-in centres and clinics.
But ministers changed the rules to allow women to take the second abortion pill at home in a landmark move.
Now the RCOG want officials to go one step further.
RCOG also reiterated their support for the decriminalisation of abortion up to 24 weeks across the UK.
In particular, they believe cuts to public health budgets have made it more difficult for women to access the services they need.
They say this may have led to rising conception rates and abortions among older women because of unplanned pregnancies.
In 2018, there were 200,608 abortions across England and Wales – an increase of four per cent on the previous year.
A spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “We absolutely support this sensible, evidence-based call from the RCOG.
“Women can safely use both medications for early medical abortion at home following a consultation with a healthcare professional.”
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