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Sydney concern over lack of morning after pill counselling

As the Life Office of Sydney Archdiocese hosts a forum tonight, it is becoming apparent that many pharmacists are ignoring guidelines about counselling those who wish to use the morning-after pill.

The Sun-Herald reported on Sunday that the Church is putting the controversial Postinor-2 pill back on the agenda by targeting pharmacists.

The newspaper's own investigation revealed wide variations in the extent of the counselling offered among a sample of ten Sydney pharmacies.

Its maker, Schering, reports sales have doubled in the five months since it became available over the counter, instead of by prescription.

But, the paper reports, the loosening of restrictions has cast pharmacists as moral arbiters in the contraception debate.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has established protocols for pharmacists to use when asked for the medication to ease concerns that women would not be provided with adequate counselling.

The Sun-Herald found that only two pharmacists followed recommended protocols when counselling our female reporters, while at one pharmacy the medication was handed over by a beauty consultant after she conferred with the pharmacist.

The Archdiocesan Life Office, opened in March, will host a forum on the Postinor-2 pill tonight. Pro-life pharmacist John Wilks, who will be speaking at the forum, does not stock the morning-after pill on human rights grounds and feels it is medically inappropriate.

"Our profession is all about advancing health and protecting human life," said Mr Wilks, who owns Seven Hills Pharmacist Advice.

He said at issue was the definition of when conception occurs, because the medication was an abortifacient, or could bring on an abortion.

He said he had taken the stance on medical, not moral grounds.

Bishop Anthony Fisher, who is also speaking at the forum, said there should be space for pharmacists, along with doctors and nurses, to "not do something if they think it's unethical".

Morning-after pill sold by a beauty consultant (The Sun-Herald 30/5/04)

Cardinal calls for end to morning after pill for under-16s (The Herald 31/5/04)
Cardinal says rape does not justify morning after pill (CathNews 6/5/04)
Bishop Fisher calls morning after pill a "cop out" (CathNews 14/11/03)
Fact Sheet: Postinor-2 morning-after pill (Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations) | Alarm over approval for sales of Postinor-2 morning-after pill without prescription - 20 June 2003
Beware the health risks of an over-the-counter morning-after drug (Online Opinion)
New Emergency Contraception available (FPA Health)
Making Emergency Contraception Easier to Swallow (Family Planning WA)
Sex and the Holy City (ABC Radio Religion Report)
Sex and the Holy City (Transcript of BBC documentary)
Archdiocese of Sydney | Life Office

32 Jun 2004