The Day after Sex

By Ferriman, Annabel | New Statesman (1996), June 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

The Day after Sex


Ferriman, Annabel, New Statesman (1996)


Annabel Ferriman on why the makers of the morning-after pill don't want you to get hold of it too easily

Ann and Julie come from different worlds but both know what it feels like to worry about unwanted pregnancy. Ann, a 33-year-old professional woman from Scotland, feared that she might be pregnant after her partner's condom leaked; Julie, a 15-year-old schoolgirl from inner London, got in a panic after unprotected sex with her boyfriend. Both turned to the NHS for post-coital contraception and both discovered that getting a quick prescription from the NHS is almost as hard as getting a ticket for the World Cup.

Only one of them managed to get what she wanted, and there are no prizes for guessing which one. Ann, who had the age and confidence to surmount the obstacles, nevertheless had to spend six hours on her quest for help one Friday afternoon, and had to visit a hospital, a family planning clinic and a GP's surgery before she was successful.

She recalled: "I first approached the accident and emergency department at my local hospital and was told that, as it was not a bank holiday, no assistance could be provided and to contact my GP. This I duly did but no appointments were available."

The GP's receptionist told her to try her local family planning clinic, but when she arrived there, at 2.45 pm, she found that the session had just finished for the day.

Despite a lengthy phone call from the clinic, the hospital still refused to help. The clinic then contacted Ann's GP practice and the receptionist finally slotted her in for the end of evening surgery. "I think the system was appalling," said Ann. "I would hate to think about a teenager facing the red tape that I did."

Julie did not face red tape so much as her doctor's disapproval. She went to her GP with her partner, but the doctor refused to prescribe emergency contraception unless she returned with one of her parents. She turned to one of the Brook Advisory Centres, which specialise in contraceptive advice for teenagers.

By then it was too late, because 72 hours had elapsed since she had had sex. She turned down the centre's offer to fit an intra-uterine device, which can also prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. The staff did not see her again and do not know whether she became another statistic in the abortion figures or a teenage mother, but felt that, in either case, she had been ill-served by the NHS.

The two stories illustrate a yawning gap in Britain's health services. Doctors discovered as far back as 1980 that women could substantially reduce the risk of pregnancy if they took four high-dose contraceptive pills (in two doses 12 hours apart) within three days of unprotected sex. But some women do not know about the pills, while others cannot always jump through all the hoops in time. The simple answer is to make emergency contraception available through chemists, without a doctor's prescription. It could move from what is known as a POM drug (a prescription-only medicine) to a P drug (one available from pharmacists). Ann and Julie could then have walked into Boots on their way to work or school and bought themselves out of their nightmare.

The very idea strikes horror into the hearts of the "moral majority", who do not like the idea of women being able to "get away" with "irresponsible sex". Yet emergency contraception is extremely safe, since the combined dose of four 50-microgram pills amounts to only a third of the oestrogen contained in a monthly supply of the standard low-dose contraceptive pill. Women took pills of 50-microgram strength every day of their lives in the 1960s, when the pill first came on to the market. Moreover, other medicines which were once prescription-only, such as pessaries for thrush, steroid creams for eczema and nasal sprays for hay fever, have all successfully moved to pharmacy drugs with no adverse consequences.

What is more, the entire medical, nursing and family planning establishments are in favour of the change: the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Faculty of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care called for a change in 1995 with the support of, among others, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing Family Planning Forum. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Day after Sex
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.