Hong Kong Free Press
8 March 2016
It is 2016 and we still don’t have fool-proof, non-permanent contraception. Regular birth control methods such as condoms and oral contraception are not 100 percent effective. However, if a condom breaks during intercourse and a woman does not want to become pregnant, there are options available. Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), often called “morning-after pills”, come to the rescue when regular methods fail or in cases where a couple had unprotected sex or a woman is a victim of rape.
There are three to four different varieties of the pill available, depending on the hormone it contains. The pill is also highly time-sensitive and, depending on the variety, should be taken within three to five days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Since its effectiveness decreases with time, easy and immediate access to the morning-after pill is essential to preventing unwanted pregnancy.
There are also certain medical risks associated with the abuse and overuse of morning-after pills, and thus some medical practitioners advocate the requirement of a doctor’s prescription to procure the pill rather than have it available freely over the counter at pharmacies.
After weighing up the costs and benefits, a number of countries have decided to make the morning-after pill available over the counter without prescription, knowing that unwanted pregnancy may carry greater risks for a woman than the pill does. A 2012 University of Hong Kong study notes that “most developed countries” make the pill available over the counter to “eliminate the barrier to access.”
However, the morning-after pill cannot be bought over the counter in Hong Kong. Though illegal sales persist, it remains a prescription-only drug...
It is debatable whether the fear of encouraging promiscuity, the lack of general knowledge among users, or concerns over misuse are legitimate reasons for the Hong Kong government to play the role of moral police and deny over-the-counter access to the pill.
Puja Kapai, associate professor of law and equal opportunity adviser at HKU, has concerns about the policy.
“For reasons of culture, age or other factors, those who find themselves in this position [in need of the morning-after pill] may be unable to or reluctant to seek the necessary and timely assistance and these barriers exacerbate the health implications, particularly for teenage girls and others who find themselves in this situation.”...
Kapai is of the opinion that the availability of morning-after pills should be deregulated in Hong Kong and that the health needs of women need to be prioritised. “The restrictions imposed on the availability of emergency contraception not only violate fundamental human rights of women but are also an affront to the right to equality, non-discrimination, dignity and privacy,” she said... Click here to read the full article.