Christian chemists to keep morning-after pill opt-out

Christian chemists will still be allowed to opt-out of selling the morning-after pill on religious grounds following guidance produced by the new regulator.

The morning-after pill can cause an early stage abortion.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) says its revised code will allow pharmacists not to sell products which clash with their religious beliefs, in a continuation of current policy.


The GPhC is a new body which is to take over from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society as the pharmacy regulator later this year.

In October a consultation took place as part of plans for the new GPhC, with one of the issues considered being the question of a conscience clause.

The consultation found that a “great majority” of respondents wanted to keep the conscience clauses.


But it said if the GPhC wanted to keep the clause, it should be with a number of conditions.

Under the proposals, Christian pharmacists may have to direct people to an alternative shop which is willing to sell them the morning-after pill.

The GPhC is also considering how pharmacists should inform customers about any refusal of products or services.


The National Secular Society (NSS) criticised the GPhC’s code.

The NSS president, Terry Sanderson, expressed disappointment that the opt-out had been retained, when the new code was a “perfect opportunity to severely restrict the exercise of this supposed conscience clause”.

A broader review by the GPhC will take place in the coming months, including a final ruling on the conscience rights.


When the morning-after pill was first approved for use in the UK, it was for ‘exceptional circumstances’ and available only with a prescription from a doctor.

Today the morning-after pill is available over the counter in pharmacies and online.

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