Switching EC to non-prescription status and unwanted pregnancy

January 2020. The paper Switching emergency contraceptives to non-prescription status and unwanted pregnancy among adult and teenage women: A long-term European comparative study was published in the South Eastern European Journal of Public Health and is available as open access.

This study’s assessed abortion/birth rates among adult and teenage women in Europe before and after the switch of EC to non-prescription status. Findings suggest, among others, that the switch contributed to reduce abortion and live birth rates among teenagers.

 Click here to read the paper. 


Council of Europe calls for promoting access to contraception

January 2020. A draft resolution calling for greater access to contraceptives, including emergency contraception, was adopted by the Equality Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) last December.

The resolution highlights the key role contraception plays for women’s empowerment, and calls on member and observer states to ensure access to contraception by ensuring, among others, the following measures (see section 9.2):

  • provision in the public sector;
  • inclusion in public health insurance schemes,
  • subsidisation schemes for vulnerable groups, including youth
  • counselling services that enable choice
  • mandatory training for health care professionals
  • development of evidence-based guidelines, based on WHO standards

Read more on the Committee’s website and download the report here.

Spain: Sexual and Reproductive Rights Observatory report

Report 2019 - Observatory DSRDecember 2019. The first Sexual and Reproductive Rights Observatory report was launched on December 10th in Barcelona. The Observatory monitors the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights in Catalonia, in order to promote and protect them.

The section on emergency contraception (EC) reports, among others, the case of a 16-year-old women who was denied her right to buy EC pills in a community pharmacy, because of previous use in the past 3 months. She was informed that 6 months need to pass between one EC pill intake and the next. This information is incorrect: previous use of EC is not a contraindication for use.

The report summary (available in English here and in Spanish here) documents the urgent need to create and disseminate an up-to-date and evidence-based guidance on EC dispensation for pharmacy staff in Spain.



Slovakia: Failed attempt to reinstate prescription for EC pills

December 2019. A draft bill proposing a number of measures to make pregnancy termination services less accessible a was introduced in the Parliament at the end of November, by members of the Slovak National Party. During the discussion new amendments were introduced, among which, reinstating mandatory prescription to buy EC pills. The proposed bill was voted on December 5th 2019, but it did not pass: EC pills will remain directly available at the pharmacies in the Slovak Republic.

While emergency contraception is not related to abortion services accessibility, this is a pattern that has been observed in many other countries: when attempts to restrict access to abortion fail, efforts to restrict access to EC become, ironically, the plan B.

More details in Bulletin Num.10 of the ASTRA Network.

United Kingdom: RCOG calls to reclassify EC pills for sale without consultation

December, 2019. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist (RCOG) recommends to reclassify emergency contraception (EC) pills as General Sales List products (so they can be sold straight off the shelf without consultation), as a simple and cost-effective measure to improve women’s access to health care. 

This is one of several recommendations made by RCOG in Better for Women, a report launched on December 2nd and which points at simple measures that can improve the health and wellbeing of girls and women in the United KingdomWith regards to EC pills, RCOB recommends to provide easier access and supports FSRH calls for individuals, including under-18s, to have full access to free emergency contraception at time and place of need.

You can access the report directly from RCOG webpage

Spain: new data on EC use among youth

October 2019. According to the National Survey on Sexual Health and Contraception among Spanish Youth, promoted by the Spanish Society of Contraception (SEC), 29,7% of young women have ever used emergency contraception (EC) pills. These figures vary when broken down by ages: 14,4% of 16 to 18 years old have ever used EC; 19,9% of 19 to 21 years old; and 34,5% of 22 to 25 years old.

On average, Spanish youth has used EC 1,49 times in their life time. When asked about the reasons why they resourced to EC, 68,5% mention condom rupture; 22,7% misuse or non-use of regular methods; and 5,2% because having missed the pill.

The survey inquired over 1200 individuals of ages between 16 to 25 during July 2019. For more information on the survey findings (in Spanish), see here.

In 2018, a different survey also sponsored by the SEC, found that 30% of sexually active women of ages 15 to 49, had ever used EC. See more details in the survey report (in Spanish, here).


Spain: 10 years of prescription-free access to EC pills

October 2019. In Spain, LNG EC pills are sold without prescription since 2009, and UPA EC pills since early 2016.  According to the news agency EFE, in this 10-year period, over 7 million units have been sold in the country.

According to the General Council of Official Colleges of Pharmacists of Spain, pharmacists have a guide that details the general rules for EC dispensation, unifies criteria on the protocol of action, and provides answers to the most frequent ethical-legal considerations.

Click here to read more (in Spanish).



Malta: what to expect when buying EC?

September 2019. In Malta, a women’s on-line discussion forum called for more sensitivity and clear direction for those wanting to buy emergency contraception (EC) pills from pharmacies.

A series of articles published in The Times of Malta picked up the story and opened a discussion about the terms in which women obtain EC pills at the pharmacy, and the fact that since the protocols or guides for pharmacy dispensation are known to the general public, women cannot know what to expect.

Read more on The Times of Malta articles here: