Fears have been expressed that a new service offering the morning-after pill online will encourage promiscuity and increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Lloyds Pharmacy is to make emergency contraceptive tablets available to order from its website without the need for a doctors’ visit.
But critics say the service will make some women more likely to have unprotected sex, leading to higher rates of STIs.
There is also concern that the increased availability of the morning-after pill, which can act to terminate a pregnancy at its earliest stage, is a move towards abortion on demand.
Lloyds will sell the pill at £28 for one, £52 for a pack of two, and £75 for a pack of three. The company says it will not knowingly sell the tablets to under-18s, and will only dispatch them to the name on the card used to pay for them.
Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, was sceptical about these safeguards.
He said: “How are they possibly going to know who is buying it? What is going to stop a 10-year-old girl from using her parent’s credit card and ordering this online? Or someone using several cards to build up a stockpile?”
Dr Saunders added: “If you think that there’s the option of emergency contraception, it will encourage you to have unprotected sex and that will fuel the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer.”
Rebecca Findlay of the FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) welcomed the news, arguing that women should have morning-after pills at home just as they “have headache tablets in case they get a headache”.
However, Labour MP Geraldine Smith said: “I think there’s a difference between contraception and the morning-after pill which is abortion in the extremely early stages.
“If you make it very easy to get hold of these pills then it’s something you do without a second thought.”