High street chain Boots is refusing to lower the price of the morning-after pill in its stores – because the company is worried that we might start using it in an “inappropriate” manner.
Despite Superdrug and Tesco agreeing to lower the price of the emergency contraception to bring it in line with other European countries – in France, the price is as little as £5.50 – Boots say they won’t budge, and will continue to charge for the pill in full. Currently, where it is not available for free on the NHS – in local pharmacies, or via your GP – Boots charges £28.25 for the market-leading brand, Levonelle, and £26.75 for its own version. Superdrug and Tesco have lowered the cost of their products to £13.50 and £13.49 respectively.
But Boots couldn’t lower the cost of the pill because, when it comes to making “appropriate” decisions about their own reproductive health, women, they said, are not to be trusted. In response to a BPAS campaign – #JustSayNon, which called upon retailers to lower the cost not only to stop women bearing the brunt of inequality in the pocket, but to break down cost barriers blocking access to the pill for some women and girls – Boots released a statement. “In our experience,” Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, wrote in a letter to BPAS, “the subject of emergency hormonal contraception polarises public opinion and we receive frequent contact from individuals who voice their disapproval of the fact that the company chooses to provide this service.
Boots have shown themselves up to be the bad boyfriend of the high street – they never split the cost of the pill with us either
“We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product.”
In other words, Boots say they are more concerned about appeasing people who believe women shouldn’t be allowed access to emergency contraception than the women buying their products. They would rather, they claim, avoid getting any complaints, than make the morning-after pill more readily available, and take a positive step towards ensuring all women can more easily protect their health – or, simply not ripping us off in the process. They “choose” to provide the service, so we should be grateful for that, is what is implied. And that Boots are saving us from ourselves, as well as protecting themselves, by preventing us being encouraged to rely on the morning-after pill. Because that would be… Oh. Inconsequential and none of their business. It’s a patronising and sexist response, and surprising from a company that appears to target the very women they’re belittling. So much for those “sisterhood”-style ad campaigns...
Boots have chosen to moralise their decision, and claim it was based on upholding principles that are not theirs to demand, rather than admit they simply want to hold on to their profit margins in a move that is crass and underhand. It seems that, for a company so worried about “provoking complaints” and “polarising opinion”, they have done both quite well. As a result, women are uniting to boycott Boots and BPAS have set up a handy – and presumably gleefully annoying – email campaign, which is sending a pre-written letter straight into the inboxes of Boots execs (you can send one here). The Women's Equality Party have also teamed up with BPAS to challenge Boots on their decision today.
Boots have shown themselves up to be the bad boyfriend of the high street – they never split the cost of the pill with us either. So let’s ghost them. If we don’t deserve complete autonomy over our sexual health, they don’t deserve our custom.