The Canadian government recently announced its plan to make emergency contraception (EC) available without a prescription at any pharmacy in Canada. According to the New York Times, the proposal still needs to go through a review process by Health Canada but it is expected to be granted approval. Currently, Canadian women can buy the pill without a prescription in three of Canada’s provinces, but this amendment would make EC available behind the counter to the entire country. Each province would then be able to determine the age at which a woman can buy the drug without a prescription.
Canada’s Minister of Health, Pierre Pettigrew, said, “Women facing an emergency need timely access to this type of therapy. Making the drug available in pharmacies without a prescription will help women to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” reports the New York Times. While Canadian women’s rights and health activists strongly endorse the government’s call for making EC a non-prescription drug, they are also encouraging that EC is made over the counter without pharmacist assistance to ensure equitable access for women.
Canada’s announcement came soon after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to reject over-the-counter status for the emergency contraceptive (EC) Plan B in the US. The FDA ignored the advice of its own expert advisory panels, which voted 23-4 to recommend approval for over-the-counter status for emergency contraception. Over the counter access to EC could prevent an estimated 800,000 abortions annually in the United States.