Wairoa pharmacist refuses to sell emergency contraceptive pill

By Suzi Lewis

Some residents are concerned that limited local access could be contributing to Wairoa's high teenage pregnancy rate. Photo / iStock
Some residents are concerned that limited local access could be contributing to Wairoa's high teenage pregnancy rate. Photo / iStock

A Wairoa pharmacist refuses to sell the emergency contraceptive pill over her counter because of personal beliefs.

Wairoa Pharmacy is the town's only dispensary.

To be eligible to sell the emergency contraceptive pill, commonly referred to as the morning-after pill, pharmacists have to complete a course.

Owner Elsa Norvil says she will not do this, for personal reasons.

"There are alternatives in place and it is an ethical right whether or not one chooses to stock or dispense the emergency contraceptive pill," she said.

"I am not prepared to supply the pill over the counter, as I see conception as a potential life, with a soul, so I will not sell it as I consider this as ending another's life.

Wairoa Pharmacy is the town's only dispensary. Photo / Duncan Brown, Hawke's Bay Today
Wairoa Pharmacy is the town's only dispensary. Photo / Duncan Brown, Hawke's Bay Today

"I am prepared to dispense it on doctors' instructions and believe this acknowledges other's rights to access this service."

Some residents are concerned that limited local access could be contributing to Wairoa's high teenage pregnancy rate.

Wairoa has no family planning facilities so the morning-after pill can be obtained only by doctor's prescription or from school-based health services.

The pill can be taken up to 72 hours, or three days, following unprotected intercourse to prevent a pregnancy from progressing.

Concerned locals say the Hawke's Bay District Health Board needs to make the pill more accessible. They point out it is available over the counter at pharmacies in other centres.

Wairoa people say they respect Miss Norvil's views but because hers is the only pharmacy in town, other options need to be offered.

"The district health board needs to make this service more accessible" one said, "as having to go to a doctor to access the pill can be off-putting for some young women.

"Why is Wairoa missing out? Why do our teenage girls not have the same options as other girls in New Zealand?"

District health board Wairoa representative Denise Eaglesome-Karekare said she had 13 young parents on her case load but there were more expectant parents aged between 16 and 18 in Wairoa.

"That number is high for a population of Wairoa's size."

Mrs Eaglesome-Karekare said if young girls were sexually active, they had a responsibility to make sure they had contraceptives.

She said Wairoa College had a resident nurse whom young people could visit, even though they might not be attending school.

Wairoa Health Centre manager Te Pare Meihana said people under the age of 24 had free access to the morning-after pill through the three general practitioner practices in Wairoa.

She said it was also available free to anyone under the age of 24 from the school-based health services.

"GPs can also provide it directly at the weekend through their on-call clinics."

Mrs Meihana said the district health board was committed to providing a sexual health service for women and men in Wairoa and was happy to consider other options.

-Wairoa Star

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