Britain’s House of Lords yesterday rejected a bill to ban the sale of emergency contraception over-the-counter, supporting Britain’s new strategy to reduce Europe’s staggering teen pregnancy rate. Emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning-after pill, blocks implantation of a fertilized egg, and is taken within 72 hours of intercourse to prevented unwanted pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists in Britain argued that EC is the equivalent of abortion, and that issuing it over the counter would encourage teen sex. Peers in the House of Lords disagreed, voting against the ban, arguing that making EC available over the counter would prevent unwanted pregnancy. A ban, some argued, would unnecessarily punish women for the accidents that often happen with many otherwise reliable methods of contraception.
Emergency contraception is available over the counter in European countries like France and Norway, but is available in the U.S. only by prescription. Washington State is currently operating a program that allows doctors to collaborate with pharmacists to provide EC to women without a doctor’s visit.