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INTERNATIONAL NEWS | Scottish Government To Provide No-Cost EC at Most Community Pharmacies

INTERNATIONAL NEWS | Scottish Government To Provide No-Cost EC at Most Community Pharmacies
[June 27, 2008]

The Scottish government plans to provide no-cost emergency contraception at most of the country's 1,200 community pharmacies, Scottish Public Health Minister Shona Robison announced Wednesday, the Scotsman reports. Robison said that she hopes by making the services part of the national contract with pharmacies, women will receive increased access to EC.

Currently, women can receive EC at no cost with prescriptions from their general practitioners or family planning clinics. Women also can buy EC over the counter from a pharmacy for about 26 British pounds, or about $51, if they are unable to get a prescription. Under the new policy, pharmacists will be able to opt out of providing EC as a matter of conscience. It has not been determined if there will be an age limit on who can receive EC, according to the Scotsman. The new policy also will allow pharmacies to provide no-cost chlamydia testing and treatment, as well as smoking cessation services, the Scotsman reports.

Stuart Scott of the British Medical Association said the new policy will help women who cannot afford EC when they are unable to see a general practitioner. He added, "Anything that will help reduce [unplanned] pregnancies is welcome." A Family Planning Association spokesperson said, "This is welcome news for women, and we would like to see more of this type of provision." However, Trevor Stammers of the charity group Family and Youth Concern said he is skeptical of the plan's efficacy because of research suggesting that EC does not reduce abortions. "I am staggered government will be wasting taxpayers' money on something not backed by a scrap of evidence," Stammers said, adding, "This will make money for the manufacturers but in terms of improving public health it will have no effect."

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church of Scotland said the plan "gives the false impression that careless sexual activity is OK because there is always a fix," adding, "That message is likely to lead to more, not less, sexually transmitted disease and higher recourse to abortion." Robison rejected the concerns that the plan would lead to more sexually transmitted infections. "It is important people can get an easily accessible service, but the message, particularly to young people, will remain the same -- to wait until you are ready for sex and be safe" (Moss, Scotsman, 6/26).