Emergency contraception: Free in Auckland

TV3 did a small piece tonight in its main news confirming that the Auckland DHB has followed the Waikato in approving a plan to make the morning-after pill available for free from pharmacies. (They get bonus points for cleverly putting “uh oh” on the pills in their image) This is great news for women, as unlike men they cannot just run away from the consequences of pregnancy, and emergency contraception gives them a little more sovereignty over their own body and makes parenthood something more similar to a choice than a fact of life for sexually active women. This also reduces the likelihood that young women will instead resort to abortions, which is better for both their mental and physical health, and is a little less morally gray.

Family First, as always, is taking a conservative christian approach to this issue and objecting on the grounds that emergency contraception encourages promiscuity, which I find rather disappointing. If a girl was looking for convenient ways to have sex without complications, condoms and birth control pills to prevent ovulation would be much higher up the list of convenient aides to pregnancy-free sex, with the big advantage in the case of condoms of also preventing sexually transmitted infections. This also ignores the fact that encouraging teenagers to use contraception is far more effective in preventing them from having sex.

The morning-after pill is called emergency contraception for a reason- it’s really only useful in an emergency. Suggesting that making it available to people for free makes them more likely to have sex is like suggesting fire extinguishers encourage people to commit arson- the fact is that people will make a decision (whether it’s about sex or arson) based on what they believe, think, and feel is right at the time, possibly ignoring one or two of those factors if they’re not making a large impression. If Family First really wants to discourage promiscuity, they should insist on raising the standard of sex education to make teenagers more aware of its consequences, oppose oversexualisation of (young) women in general media, and encourage child-raising to be reserved for loving, stable families.

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