On Friday night, the Mail posted the following story on it’s web-site: Boots sells the morning after pill on the internet: Outcry at plan that could let under-16s ‘stock up’ without seeing a GP.
The Mail also chose to feature it on Saturday’s front page (along with a free Elvis DVD):
The article begins as follows:
Britain’s biggest chemist plans to sell the morning after pill on the internet.
Teenagers could buy the emergency contraceptive from the Boots website without seeing a doctor or pharmacist.
The whole article is introduced as if Boots were the first pharmacist to supply the morning-after pill over the Internet. This is despite this article from the Mail in March 2009: Fury as High Street pharmacy sells morning-after pill online (will someone please buy the Daily Mail a thesaurus; “fury” and “outcry” are becoming a little overdone).
Back to the latest article:
It is feared this will fuel promiscuity among young girls, who unknown to their parents will be able to keep a supply in their bedroom.
This is a typical tactic used by the tabloid media; to use weasel words like “it is feared” or “some have said” in place of simply saying “we think”.
The Mail continues:
And because it will encourage unprotected sex, it risks adding to the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases among the under-25s.
No evidence is produced to support this hypothesis. I’m not saying it isn’t the case but I think if you’re going to state something like this as if it were fact, you have to at least provide some evidence to support your claim.
The Mail adds:
Young girls with access to credit cards – their own or their parents’ – could obtain it for themselves and for friends who would be taking it without any medical advice whatsoever.
Whatever they mean by “young girls”, I’m fairly sure that credit cards would be hard for them to come by. And if they ask to use their parents’ card, I’m sure the parents would want to know for what purpose the card is needed. This rather spoils the Mail’s attempt of making us envisaged 11-year-old girls buying boxes and boxes of the pill, does it not?
Back to the Mail:
Normally, users must see their GP or pharmacist for a thorough consultation before they are given the treatment.
They are taken into a private room and asked a series of uncomfortable questions such as when the unprotected sex took place and the last time they took the morning after pill.
But if it is made available over the internet, they will need only to fill in an online form and make a payment for the contraceptive to be delivered by post the next day.
The Mail doesn’t state what questions will be asked as part of this online form. If questions have to be asked when the pill is bought in-store, surely the same questions would need to be asked online too. Obviously, there’s a difference between answering questions in-person and online but I’m sure this is something Boots would have thought of.
The Mail then finally admits that the pill is already available online from other sources:
The morning after pill is already available online from some sources including Lloyds Pharmacy.
But if a big and trusted name such as Boots enters the market, it is feared that far more girls will be tempted to buy.
Lloyds Pharmacy doesn’t quite have the same level of ubiquity as Boots, I’ll admit, but this is an incredibly weak excuse for rehashing old news as if it were news.
Back to the Mail:
The contraceptive is available from GPs, family planning centres, A&E; departments and can also be bought without prescription from pharmacies including Boots for a fee of £25.
Surely, £25 isn’t a sum that’s easy for “young girls” to come by. In the vast majority of cases, a “young girl” would need to ask their parents to borrow the money, again prompting questions about what the money is for. This further interferes with the Mail’s idea that girls of 11 would be stocking up the stuff in their bedrooms.
The Mail then tells us the side-effects caused by the pill, as if to prove some point or other:
But there are common side effects including sickness, headache, abdominal pain and disruption of periods.
None of these seem particularly major to me and considering that regular paracetamol tablets include such side-effects as swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, difficulty breathing and unexpected bruising, it hardly seems cause for concern, does it?
It’s then time for some fair and balanced quotes:
Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP from South London who also lectures in healthcare ethics, said: ‘This will just encourage people to be irresponsible.
‘The morning after pill is also fuelling an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases as people just think they can have unprotected sex.
‘The fact that it will be available over the internet is a further trend of our increasingly sexualised society.
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: ‘The danger is that the morning after pill would be easily available to young girls without them seeing a doctor.
‘This would encourage them to think of it as a safety mechanism and this may well promote greater promiscuity.
‘There is also still the risk of pregnancy – as it isn’t always effective. And there is the concern that young girls entering a sexual relationship too early will suffer emotionally when it breaks down.
‘It’s putting company profits before women’s health.’
So, one quote from a South London GP and another from the chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship. I suppose it’s just a coincidence that they both agree with the Mail, right?
Quite handy how the Mail fails to mention that Dr Trevor Stammers used to be the chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship, isn’t it?
Adding yet more “balance” to the article, the Mail includes this final quote:
Josephine Quintaville, of the Pro Life Alliance, described the Boots plan as ‘grossly inappropriate’.
She said: ‘It could lead to young girls stockpiling the pills and then taking them incorrectly – too late for example. They would be able to bypass parents, who would have no knowledge of what they were doing.
‘Girls of any age could access them. They would not have to prove how old they were so we could have very young girls aged 11 buying the morning after pill.’
‘The law in this country doesn’t allow sex under the age of 16 – girls of younger ages should not really be having sex.’
Dr Trevor Stammers, Peter Saunders and Josephine Quintaville have obviously all been chosen because they work for, or once worked for, organisations that are anything but neutral on this issue. No attempt at a balance is made at all; no dissenting quotes are included.
Well, I think that’s all that I can say on the matter. I’ll leave the final word to the Mail’s own readership: