There has been a call from many to boycott Boots after the chemist openly refused to lower the cost of the morning after pills that were being sold within their stores. The health and beauty store announced that it would not be following the likes of Tesco and Superdrug in lowering the costs of the emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) that they would be selling for fear that lower prices would encourage over use.
Tesco and Superdrug have halved their prices following a campaign from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) which is a leading provider of abortion care. Studies have shown that British women are currently paying up to 5 times more than their European peers for the contraceptive. Boots is currently charging £28.25 for Levonelle emergency contraception (which is the leading brand) and £26.75 for their own generic version. Tesco have lowered their pricing on Levonelle to £13.50 while Superdrug sells their own generic version for £13.49. If you were to buy the contraceptive in France it would cost you £5.50.
Around 4% of British women use emergency contraception throughout any given year, and around 61% of British women have used it at some point in their lives, showing it is a useful tool that can be used as an emergency measure and therefore should be more available than it currently is. BPAS believe that purposely setting the price high to prevent women using it regularly was “patronising and insulting” and doesn’t really make sense considering it is providing better healthcare options for women who don’t want to get pregnant. By keeping the price high it seems as though poorer women are being punished for having an active sex life that may run the risk of not being completely protected, as it will be harder for those with a tighter income to access these parts of their basic healthcare.
In a letter from Boots they address the problems in accessibility by raising the price and point out that the tablet is available from other sources including community pharmacies, and also suggests that EHC polarises public opinion with some being against the availability of contraceptive drugs being sold in the store, and that some customers have already expressed unhappiness with Boots providing this service. The letter states that Boots doesn’t want to incentivise “inappropriate” use of the contraceptive and doesn’t want to provoke more complaints by lowering the price of the tablet. All of this fundamentally suggests that Boots are more bothered by the opinions of a rare selection of sexist customers who don’t think women should have access to a contraceptive drug that would stop unintended pregnancies in their tracks, and once again shows how gender inequality costs women more than men.
After the controversy of the “pink tax” – the phenomenon wherein any products that are advertised for female grooming and consumption have inherently higher tax rates than those advertised for men, it is irritating for many to see this trend of charging women for things their body cannot control because they believe that it should cost more for a woman to maintain the ideals that society puts on her. It has also been noticed that Boots don’t provide advantage points on from-birth baby formula, which effectively penalises new mothers who aren’t breast feeding as they obviously believe that it is through their own “selfish” choice rather than that they may not be able to through physical or medical reasons, or that they have decided they don’t want to breast feed for their own personal reasons.
It is irritating to see a store that was once a pharmaceutical haven that cared deeply about it’s customers and employees become a company that cares only for their own profit over the health of their customers.