Emergency contraception now available to buy online?

// 23 March 2009

UPDATE: You can buy Levonelle, and regular oral contraception, here.

The Daily Mail is claiming that, from today, it will be possible to buy up to three doses of the emergency contraception Levonelle from Lloyds Pharmacy online, enabling women to store it at home to be used when regular contraception fails. An excellent idea, but I can’t seem to find it on their online store just yet – I’ll keep checking and let you know if/when it appears. Of course, it’s pretty damn expensive: a single pill will apparently sell for £28, a pack of two for £52 and three for £75, but for those times when you can’t get to a GP or an FPA clinic for a free dose, it’s an ideal back-up. It would be better, of course, if you could just get a free dose for the store cupboard from your GP (without having to lie and say you’ve just had unprotected sex), but at least this is a start.

I know I’d also like to avoid the condescending lecture I got from the Tesco chemist last time I had to go get emergency contraception, anyone else had that? Not just the facts on how to take it, but all this ‘you do know you shouldn’t use this as regular contraception, right?’, while looking down his nose at me like I was some kind of filthy animal…

It will come as no surprise to hear that The Mail takes exactly the same attitude: apparently us women are all complete idiots who will jump at the chance to use Levonelle as our regular contraception, spreading STIs and general sluttishness across the country at a rate of knots. But at £28 a pop, who wouldn’t?!

Comments From You

Catherine Redfern // Posted 23 March 2009 at 12:14 pm

Ooh I really hope this is true…! There is a campaign organised by journalist Ellie Levenson about trying to make this more accessible, and allowing women to buy them to have ‘in stock just in case’ rather than having to buy them urgently when they’re actually needed. It (the campaign) was called something like ‘women are not stupid’.

Clare // Posted 23 March 2009 at 12:22 pm

I hope you reported that chemist to his manager. That is totally unprofessional conduct and they have no right to make remarks or judgments like that. I’ve been lucky on the occasions where I have had to go for emergency contraception the doctors have always been pretty understanding because accidents happen and condoms break etc.

Elle // Posted 23 March 2009 at 12:49 pm

Ah yes, the wonderful imagination of the DailyFail. What would we do without it.

But also, a quick message of support for the Boots in central Cambridge – they now have Levonelle on the shelves by the contraception, rather than behind the counter (which is an improvement on my experience last time: “I’d like some Levonelle please” – “What?” – “Levonelle?” – “What?” – “SODDING MORNING AFTER PILL OK!!!”), and the chemist was totally non-judgemental, professional and calm, and treated me as an adult who knew what was what. Excellent.

Sabre // Posted 23 March 2009 at 5:16 pm

I’ve had to use Levonelle twice and both times the GP and pharmacist were totally fine. So I’m lucky. The first time I felt the need to tell the doctor how it was an accident and NOT me being a big slut – and she said that was none of her business and it can happen to anyone. Phew. In the pharmacy I felt like everyone was looking at me, but they probably weren’t.

The Daily Hate cannot resist patronising women though. As If someone would regularly spend £28 for emergency contraception when they can get the Pill for free. Doh! It’s almost as stupid as when people claim women use abortions a contraception. Yup, we’re really that stupid.

Jane // Posted 23 March 2009 at 6:28 pm

I’ve used it once and was impressed by the behaviour of the male pharmacist. He calmly said I could use the private room if I wanted to take it straight away (I did) and handed me a cup of water without being asked. Not by word, glance or raised eyebrow did he judge me.

Anne Onne // Posted 23 March 2009 at 7:14 pm

apparently us women are all complete idiots who will jump at the chance to use Levonelle as our regular contraception, spreading STIs and general sluttishness across the country at a rate of knots.

Because an expensive tablet that you have to beg for, be judged for, and actually makes you feel really sick is the easiest way to avoid getting pregnant.

Of course, condoms are pretty cheap (or even free, if you get them from the right places), don’t have health side-effects, and protect against STIs as well as pregnancy, but somehow that doesn’t make lots of people wear them. Where’s the anger at all the men who refuse to wear condoms? It takes two to tango, and all these women who have to rush for the pill (some of whom simply had condoms that, say, burst or something)were having sex with men who could have played a part in avoiding this, but didn’t.

I think this is a really, really good idea. Accidents can happen all the time, and even if women and men have unprotected sex, they don’t deserve to be judged and run the risk of not being able to procure it in time (and it’s more effective the earlier you take it!).

Even If (and it’s a big if) someone’s willing to take the more expensive option as a matter of habit, rather than free contraception, it’s still none of anyone else’s business. If someone’s willing to pay that much, and have the more severe physical effects of the morning after pill, then what the hell does it mean to all these knicker-sniffers? Seriously, morning-after pills are NOT abortions. They don’t kill implanted embryos. They’re just contraception taken after sex. No different from taking the pill.

The only reason some people fuss about it is because they’re anti-sex, and feel that women should be punished as much as possible to ‘pay’ for their decision to have sex. Men aren’t in the picture, and the idea that taking contraceptions or having an abortion actually ARE a form of taking responsibility escapes them. Because one can only be responsible by abstaining, or carrying the resulting foetus to term, marrying the father and living happily ever after.

Sarah // Posted 23 March 2009 at 7:44 pm

Levonelle is available to buy online, and has been for some time here: http://www.drthom.com/sexual_health/oral_contraceptive_pill_Microgynon_Yasmin_Cilest/Levonelle_morning_after_pill_double_pack. Not useful for everyone, of course, as it’s not cheap and some women may prefer to see a GP/nurse in person and have the opportunity to ask questions etc. But it’s good that it’s there as one of the options, I think.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 23 March 2009 at 8:41 pm

The Daily Male’s claims are typical of a male-owned and male-centered perspective in that it continues to attempt to impose male-defined moralities on women. I note there was no mention of the fact certain heterosexual acts which can cause pregnancy can only be undertaken when a male is present.

How many men I wonder have experienced a female member of staff raise her eyebrows and give a disapproving look as she records his purchase of condoms on the till? Does such a purchase imply the man is going to engage in what the Daily Male would term ‘promiscuous heterosexual activity?’

The Daily Male should be focusing on the numbers of heterosexual males who refuse to take responsibility for ensuring their female sexual partners do not inadvertently become pregnant if they engage in penetrative sex without the man wearing a condom. Unwanted pregnancy is not something which just happens to women – men are directly involved.

Of course condoms are not 100% effective because they can break but judgemental articles such as the Daily Male’s demonise all heterosexual women and reinforce male-centered sexual double standards. So, apparently it is acceptable for men to engage in serial sexual activity with women but women alone are to blame if they take responsibility for their reproductive health. Such logic is illogical because whilst heterosexual men are depicted as always wanting/needing heterosex, women are depicted as either men’s sexualised commodities or else they are depicted as ‘sl…..’ The Daily Male and their followers cannot have it both ways but of course the real issue is about male control and male policing of women’s sexualities and their bodies. Women must be made sexually available to men but it is women not men, apparently who must take responsibility when it comes to preventing an unwanted pregnancy.

But patriarchy has never been logical because its central aim is the continued control, oppression and policing of female sexuality – not male heterosexuality.

Amelia // Posted 24 March 2009 at 7:17 am

I went to two London-based pharmacies to get Levonelle. The first was staffed by two mature women who readily answered all my nervous questions then told me I could pay to get it there or walk five minutes down the road and get it from another pharmacy for free. The second was staffed almost entirely by young men, and the pharmacist who asked me the questions for the form you need to fill in to get it for free was perfectly discreet and respectful, as were the three other members of staff standing two feet away. I was a little embarrassed, but was lucky enough never to feel judged or patronised in the slightest. (How messed up, that this should be ‘luck’.)

Also, in case anyone out there has the same concerns as I do, emergency contraception does not necessarily make you feel sick; I have a phobia of vomit so was actually willing to take my chances on terminating a pregnancy rather than voluntarily swallowing something that would make me throw up, but the first pharmacists said the formula’s been improved so that most women shouldn’t even feel queasy, and, sure enough, I suffered no side effects whatsoever.

Nina // Posted 24 March 2009 at 7:46 pm

The only disapproval I’ve experienced when getting hold of emergency contraception was from a female GP in Cardiff who was extremely judgmental. She prescribed me a type of contraception with 4 pills rather than the standard Levonelle in 2001. If I had been older I would have lodged a formal complaint about her behaviour, particularly in light of the fact that I had stopped taking the pill because it was causing side effects and I had used a condom that had split. It is one of my regrets that I was a little too young and embarrassed to respond as indignantly as she deserved. In retrospect I feel my youth was taken advantage of by a medical professional who had power over me and was punishing me for living quite normally. I’ve never had an experience like that before or since with any man or woman.

Laura // Posted 24 March 2009 at 10:33 pm

Anne Onne: Totally agree – which is why I thought the (male) pharmacist who sold me the morning after pill when I needed it was awesome. After a burst condom, my then boyfriend and I hotfooted it to Boots (I was leaving the country on a flight that evening, and it was Sunday, so no chance of getting to the doctor), he asked me all the basic questions (do you smoke, that kind of thing) in a perfectly professional manner – then when it came to pay for it, my boyfriend and I both whipped our cards out, and he took my boyfriend’s, saying that he alway’s took the man’s if he could, because he thought men often took too little responsibility for contraception and hitting them in wallet might help!

Laura // Posted 24 March 2009 at 10:34 pm

Oh, and according to a doctor friend, taking about a packet of the normal pill is the same as a morning after pill. Not sure I feel comfortable with the risk though…

Kate // Posted 25 March 2009 at 3:58 pm

As much as I always like to make contraception more available, there is an unavoidable niggle with emergency contraception that makes me unconformatable. I’m concerned that sending out the message that emergency contraception is really easy to obtain makes it easier for men to think they have no responsibility to play in preventing pregnancy, they can carry on regardless and assume the woman can just get everything sorted by text message the next morning. This isn’t an argument for scaling back contraception but I think a cultural factor that has to be considered. It’s similar I suppose to the analysis that says many young women rely on emergency contraception because it allows them not to consider that sex was pre-meditated, echoes of “only sluts carry condom”.

Laura // Posted 25 March 2009 at 5:17 pm

Interesting point, Kate, but I think the answer is to tackle male attitudes towards women and sex rather than prevent improved access to emergency contraception. Last time I took it I asked the guy to pay half, and he was fine with it – quite right too!

Frances // Posted 26 March 2009 at 12:36 am

Just in case anyone is lulled into believing that we somehow don’t have a problem in this country in terms of access, I was refused the morning after in Boots on a bank holiday! A bank holiday! It meant I had to wait another 24 hours because no other pharmacy in my area was open. Personally, I think I’ll stick to the fibbing to the dr to get emergency contraception to have on hand, because buying it is expensive. Having said that, next time I have some cash, I might go online because it saves the whole can’t get to the dr/can’t afford to pay trauma.

In Spain it’s prescription only and I had to answer questions rating my enjoyment of sex between 1 and 10 (10 being the best). I’m unsure of whether that was to check whether I was truly repentant, or just research. Bizarre.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 March 2009 at 12:38 am

Kate: That aspect is apparently particularly prevalent in abstinence-only educated youngsters. Because people are taught that sex is shameful, that one shouldn’t take precautions because it’s murder or they’re gonna fail, people end up less likely to protect themselves when they do end up having sex. They prefer to see it as something that ‘just happened’, not something that could have been planned for, because to plan for sex is treated like premeditating a murder or other serious crime for some people. Naturally, this is stupid because protection is safe, relatively easy to use, and can be affordable, and decreases the chances of infection or pregnancy significantly. People WILL have sex sooner or later, and planning for that isn’t irresponsible or unnecessary.

Men’s attitudes to contraception, likewise need to be considered and dealt with,and I definitely don’t think enough focus is put on this at the moment. I was having a heated discussion with a guy last time this topic came up, because he kept insisting that men/boys would never care about it because they have no burden to bear when it comes to this, and that’s just how men are. I don’t believe men innately don’t give a shit, because many actually do, so I believe that there is a huge cultural element telling men and boys they don’t need to care about contraception, that it’s unnecessary, that it’s too much hard work, or losing some pleasure isn’t worth it (though young men, who often have a problem with premature ejactulation would actually benefit from less intense stimulation) or it’s not their job. We let men face no consequences when it comes to unprotected sex. Most times, they all walk away, regardless of what happens (baby, STI, abortion, morning after pills, etc). Teaching them that there will be consequences, and that it’s mature to take responsibility for their actions is possible. Most men can handle all sorts of tasks at work, as well as responsibility for many important things. Men have the ability to take responsiblility, they just often choose not to, because society lets them get away with it as a whole.

There are of course those who do, and thanks to them! It would be good if these kinds of men encouraged other men to do the same: some things men do take more seriously coming from other men.

Laura // Posted 26 March 2009 at 9:21 am

Frances, that’s really shitty. On what grounds did they refuse you, if you don’t mind saying?

Catherine Redfern // Posted 26 March 2009 at 9:48 am

Frances, yes that is awful! I thought they were supposed to refer you to another member of staff?

You know, it IS responsible – not irresponsible – to buy emergency contraception in advance, for an emergency. I mean, what if I was going travelling for a long time with my partner, and something goes wrong, and I’m stuck in a foreign country at 2am in the morning wondering what to do?

Or, god forbid, what if I got raped one day?

I know its dreadful to have that thought, but it has crossed mine. I guess that’s just a result of living in a rape culture which makes women terrfied all the time, and tells us we should be terrifed.


Did anyone find the link on Lloyds Pharmacy anyway?

Laura // Posted 26 March 2009 at 10:13 am

@ Catherine – yep, see the update at the top of the post :-)

Clare // Posted 26 March 2009 at 7:09 pm

I just wanted to say that I have successfully ordered emergency contraception on the Lloyd’s Pharmacy website, and it is on its way! I’m so pleased to be able to get the morning after pill “just in case” without having to lie.

One of the things which actually led me to the f word a few years ago was going to a Sainsbury’s pharmacy on the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend, quite possibly the Easter weekend actually, needing a morning after pill. The pharmacist refused to even speak to me, instead sending back one of the assistants to tell me that it was “against his religion” and that he thought it was “killing”. I was younger then, and I hadn’t really thought through all the issues to do with bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom, and so I never reported him to Sainsbury’s. I was also embarrassed by the whole situation. It was extremely humiliating.

There were no other pharmacies I could get to with no car and no public transport available that weekend. Luckily, I was OK, and I didn’t conceive anyway, but I think it was that weekend that I spent reading many of the articles on the F word, because I was so infuriated by the whole thing!

I’ve needed to take the morning after pill one other time since then, and I was so stressed out about getting it that I could barely speak to the pharmacist because I was so worried that she would judge me. Actually, she was completely fine, and even offered me a glass of water so I could take it there and then.

I’m very pleased that it is now possible for women to get the morning after pill in advance. I think it should be one of those things which everyone just has in stock in their house, like painkillers for a headache.

HCR // Posted 27 March 2009 at 3:27 pm

I work with teenage mothers and I honestly don’t think the majority would even think about doing this. These kind of prices make it difficult for people on income support/benefits to access the service making this very “middle class”.

I know that they can still access the free contraceptive pill elsewhere but still… they would never be able to afford this and then they could end up with a baby 9 months later.

I honestly don’t know how many of the teenage mums I deal with got pregnant by accident. Very few from the plans they had already laid down before the pregnancy.

Laura // Posted 27 March 2009 at 3:31 pm

HCR – I agree, I don’t for a minute think this is any kind of ‘solution’ to teenage pregnancy, just useful for those of us who are lucky enough to be able to afford it. Though, as I said, I think we should be able to get it free to store at home, not just when we need it.

David // Posted 27 March 2009 at 5:23 pm

There’s very little point reporting these pharmacists to anyone, because they are legally allowed to refuse to sell the morning after pill on perceived ethical grounds. Absolutely disgusting and typical of the moralising HateMail morons, but there you go. Their regulatory body have reinforced the ethical opt-out too, after a complaint in Cardiff; woman goes to only emergency pharmacist in town, gets refused on ethical grounds, ends up giving birth to twins. Can’t find a link to it now but that shows just how little autonomy women really have.

For the most part GPs ahnd pharmacists are very good, but female autonomy goes out of the window if you get a moralising professional. No MAP and then the guilt-tripping and downright nasty spiting if their moralising means the woman chooses termination.

Charlotte Cooper // Posted 27 March 2009 at 10:03 pm

David, I don’t think we should stop reporting it just because they won’t be prosecuted.

Fruitless though it may feel currently I think we have to keep our voice and message clear that for the pharmacist to deny medical aid or contraception based on their morals is wrong.

Aimee // Posted 28 March 2009 at 11:00 am

Why can they refuse to sell it? On moral grounds? That’s disgusting!? How is that okay? Why is it okay for someone to be able to have jurisdiction over a woman’s body! To be able to say whether or not she should be entitled to contraception based on their own skewed morals?! That is WRONG.

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