This US firm has stirred up a sexism and abortion row over its pricing of the morning after pill

  • The chief pharmacist at Boots defends higher pricing in UK stores.
  • Says lower fee could encourage "inappropriate use".
  • Calls by campaigners and politicians to boycott the chain.
Boots store
Source: Walgreen's

The U.S. owned drugstore chain, Boots, stands accused of sexism after its top pharmacist suggested lowering the price of the morning after pill could be "incentivizing inappropriate use".

The Walgreen firm is the U.K.'s largest drugstore with more than 2,500 stores. It also said it wanted to avoid upsetting people who don't think it should sell emergency contraception at all.

In a letter to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) the chief pharmacist at Boots, Marc Donovan, said "we would not want to be accused of incentivizing inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product".

BPAS responded on Twitter by asking people if they believed women were capable of using contraception "appropriately".

BPAS has been conducting a 'Just say Non' campaign to get retailers to reduce the cost of emergency contraception.

The campaign highlighted that British women have been paying up to £30 ($35) for a pill while in France women can buy emergency contraception for just €7 ($8).

Rivals Tesco and Superdrug halved the price of the pill in their stores following the campaign but Boots has continued to charge £28.25 for the brand Levonelle and £26.75 for its generic offering.

In response Boots U.K. released a statement Friday that said it was "extremely disappointed by the focus BPAS have taken in this instance."

It added that it had sent "a full and detailed response outlining our views that this is a professional healthcare service which, we believe, requires a professional healthcare consultation."

The statement did not further address the reason for maintaining the current price of its emergency contraceptive.

On Twitter critics accused the store of patronizing women and some vowed to boycott the chain;

While another identified the policy as sexist;

While one U.K. member of parliament called the policy outrageous: