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The stigma of the Morning After Pill
|Opinion||Thu, 20 Sep 2012||Tweet|
by The Stand
Note: All articles in the Opinion section are the views of the individuals expressing them and do not represent The Stand's official stance on anything.
It seems that one of the greatest contraceptive creations of the 20th century, the Morning After Pill, is struggling to become an accepted part of our society. I was shocked at the way I was treated when seeking this commonly used emergency contraception, and felt the plunging feelings of mortification, embarrassment and a touch of shame to top it off whilst doing so. And why did I feel this way? Should it not be regarded as a sensible solution, rather than the branding of a mishap from the night before?
The Morning After Pill was brought into British society in 1984. It was originally used for victims of sexual assault in the later 60s and throughout the 70s and the decision to release this emergency contraception into the general population, rather unsurprisingly, received criticism from conservative and religious groups at the time. Twenty eight years on, in 2011, a fifth of the female population had used the Morning After Pill to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy.
This is where my experience comes in: having made the mistake of getting carried away the night before, I knew the next morning the responsible, mature and downright rational thing to do would be to visit a pharmacy, take emergency contraception, and be secure in the knowledge that I had reduced my chances of being pregnant. But as I walked to the local pharmacy, the decision I had made and reactions of the people around me left me shocked at our “modern” society.
Firstly, I chose a pharmacy far away from my house - in case anyone I knew would see me (being sensible??) Secondly, I refused to tell the pharmacist what was wrong until I was safe in the knowledge that no one could hear. I was embarrassed when an elderly couple passing might have heard what I was saying, that they could been outraged and may somehow have judged me to be foolish and promiscuous - feelings that are undeniably out of date in the 21st century. And thirdly, I felt the need to justify my actions to the judgemental pharmacist and state that this “wasn’t like me” and that, “honestly, I am a very good girl really”. Where did this come from? I wasn’t ashamed of anything I had done but I acted ashamed - and scared - of the response I could get from people if they knew what I was doing.
The consequences of not getting the emergency contraception are, clearly, far greater. The thought of an abortion or even having to give birth to a child at this age scared me enough to go through this experience. Going to get the Morning After Pill should not, however, be an ordeal. It should be a private affair, that doesn’t make women feel apprehensive about getting it. Furthermore, many situations that result in having to take these measures are accidents or unforeseen circumstances such as the condom tearing or coming off, or even a mishap in your pill schedule. Innocent occurrences that can result in an unfair judgement. Unfortunately for us girls, we have to deal with this side of a relationship.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to rant on about how unfair it is that we carry the burden of contraception/child birth/blah blah blah. But in our modern society, we are rightfully attempting to adopt a more liberal attitude towards sex and allow ourselves as a generation to be open and confident in speaking about it. However, chatting to my friends, many of them had similar experiences when purchasing emergency contraception. Many felt ashamed, worried and some even used fake names when going to get it. You’d think we were taking hardcore drugs!
I am in no way advertising the Morning After Pill as a regular form of contraception. It is there for emergency use. I am, however, asking the public why this stigma still exists? Society needs to support women and increase everyone's awareness of the consequences of unprotected sex. The decision to attain the Morning After Pill should be seen as one of maturity, as well as a statement about our right to take control of our own reproductive lives. Instead, we feel embarrassed under the weighty burden of a society that judges women for taking liberties and attempting to correct them. So embarrassed, that I hesitate to attach my name to this article.
Photo © Anna Gudnason
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