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The Australian Medical Association is calling on the Federal Health Minister to reverse a decision to make emergency contraception available over the counter in pharmacies.

The head of the AMA Ethics Committee, Doctor Rosanna Capolingua says the decision to make the drug Postinor available through pharmacies is short-sighted and trivializes women’s health. Dr Capolingua says pharmacists are not the right people to be distributing the morning after pill.

“The morning after pill is something that women can access for unwanted pregnancies, and unwanted pregnancies occur in a whole range of situations. It is an issue that needs appropriate advice and certainly needs consideration of how the situation occurred and how the situation can be prevented in the future. A pharmacist is not able to provide that sort of advice over the counter in an environment where it is a shop, where the pharmacist may be male or female, may be a junior person.”

Sexual health physician, Dr Stella Heley says easier access to the morning after pill could encourage unsafe sex. “People, if they have sexual contact without using a condom run the risk of becoming pregnant, run the risk also of contracting a sexually transmissable infection.”

Postinor is the first over-the-counter birth control pill available in Australia and has a 95 per cent “success” rate [i.e. prevents ovulation or terminates pregnancy] if taken within 24 hours of sexual intercourse. [Radio News;, 31.12.2003; N Valko RN, 1/2/04]