Equality Commission supports morning-after pill

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality has officially declared it’s in favour of licensing emergency contraception: Lack of access means discrimination

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality has officially declared its support to emergency contraception, following a judicial protest signed and presented by 102 women.

In a statement issued on Saturday morning, the NCPE said it was in favour of making available the morning-after pill in Malta.

“Lack of access to the morning-after pill raises an issue of discrimination since the unavailability of this pill penalises primarily women by denying them a pharmaceutical service that would allow them to exert more control over their life. Emergency contraception is important for women to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” the Commission said.

“The NCPE also notes that other emergency contraception methods, such as the IUD (coil), are already available in Malta. However, these are more costly and less accessible compared to the morning-after pill. Thus, licensing the morning-after pill would enhance access to emergency contraception and safeguard the rights of every woman by ensuring that goods and services offered on the market are available to all women.”

Emergency contraception can prevent most pregnancies when taken after intercourse and is effective only in the first few days after the sexual act, before the ovum is released from the ovary and before the sperm fertilizes the ovum. 

According to the World Health Organisation, emergency contraception cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo.

Pro-lifers and the Catholic Church are among those who oppose the availability of the morning-after pill, arguing that it is an abortifacient. 

But now, Archbishop Charles Scicluna has been quoted as saying that he would not find the morning-after pill abortive if it works before fertilisation. According to Princeton, “there is no evidence to suggest that either of the FDA-approved emergency contraceptive options, levonorgestrel (LNG, such as Plan B One-Step, Take Action, Next Choice One Dose or My Way) or ulipristal acetate (UPA, such as ella) works after an egg is fertilized”.

Whilst the chairperson of the Medicines Authority, Professor Anthony Serracino Inglott, said that the morning-after pill is not illegal, the Chamber of Pharmacists said that pharmacists can object to dispense the pill on religious grounds.

“Pharmacists, as independent healthcare professionals, are guided by the ethical code of the Pharmacy Council which is based on the principle of beneficence and abhors maleficence

“Pharmacists may refuse to dispense prescriptions which would mimic the action of the MAP on the basis of conscientious objection. They may do this without being judgemental and indicating another pharmacy where the client may receive the service,” the Chamber said.

The Chamber is also insisting they are independently empowered to question doctors’ prescriptions, contradicting the claims carried in the press that medical dispensaries could not contradict prescriptions.

“Pharmacists are independent healthcare professionals who  have every right and responsibility to question a doctor’s prescription, not only in this  context, but in any other situation, and use his or her discretion on whether a prescription is to be dispensed or not. This is enabled by the Medicines Act and the Code of Ethics of the Pharmacy profession issued by the Pharmacy Council.” 

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