Mothers and teenage daughters dominated London’s talk radio stations this morning, after the UK government said it would try making the contraceptive pill available over the counter in pharmacies (see The Guardian for a news report). Opponents of the move (including some teenage girls) said that it would encourage people to go out and have sex.
Having lived for years in countries where I could buy pills from street vendors at all hours of the day and night, I’ve got news for these girls: sadly, it’s not that easy to get laid.
People don’t have sex just because they can get the pill easily, any more than they start shooting up drugs just because they can get needles easily. (Britain’s pharmacies give millions of sterile syringes and needles to injectors every year, but that doesn’t make us all rush for a fix.) I suspect the biggest effect of making the pill more easily available will be to make both GPs and their clients less grumpy. My doctor doesn’t want to lecture me about exercise and blood pressure every six months any more than I want to make an appointment, take time off work, queue for 35 minutes and get lectured, just so that I can get my dose of progesterone. Pharmacists are probably rather better equipped than doctors to say: “Remember, love, you need to be using condoms as well as pills if you’re getting around a bit.” And they certainly have a greater incentive to say it, because it is their cash registers that will be ringing up the sales for both.