#MyMorningAfter: banishing the shame around the morning after pill

 
 Illustration by Megan Storey

Illustration by Megan Storey

 


"We want these stories to reassure women, who may be frantically googling the morning after pill, that they are not alone.”



 

If I told you that I had taken the morning after pill today, would you judge me? Would you assume that I had a lot of casual sex? Or that I was irresponsible and couldn’t be bothered to use regular contraception? Would you inwardly congratulate yourself for making better decisions than I have?

I’d like to think that you wouldn’t think any of these things, but these are the fears running through many women’s minds when they seek emergency contraception. This is exactly what #MyMorningAfter is confronting. We believe that by encouraging women to support each other, share their stories and join this conversation, women will no longer need to feel isolated or ashamed by this experience.

How much of an impact does this taboo have on women? What exactly is #MyMorningAfter up against? Well, the undue stigma attached to this purchase leads some women to not seek emergency contraception after unprotected sex, risking an unwanted pregnancy. In a survey conducted by ellaOne, the most effective morning after pill, they found that although 46% of respondents had unprotected sex in the last year, only 27% of them took emergency contraception.

Of those who do seek out emergency contraception, the process can involve a farcical level of avoiding unwarranted attention from onlookers. 26% of women we spoke to said they would wait until no one else was in the pharmacy before they asked for emergency contraception. 12% – one in eight – women would even go to another town to avoid bumping into anyone they knew.

In September, ellaOne launched My Morning After to drive this conversation and end the judgement of women who seek emergency contraception. Our website includes informative articles about how emergency contraception works, sex-positive pieces encouraging women to feel more confident talking about sex and contraception, and first-person stories from women who have taken the morning after pill. We want these stories to reassure women, who may be frantically googling the morning after pill, that they are not alone.

We want to end the stigma, shame, and embarrassment that still lingers around emergency contraception. This doesn’t mean that we’re encouraging women to have unprotected sex or that we are promoting the morning after pill as a method of contraception. The clue is in the name: emergency contraception should only be used in an emergency. Of course, we recommend using a regular method of contraception if you don’t want to get pregnant and condoms are the most reliable protection against STDs.

In any case, society’s willed ignorance about the fact that unprotected sex happens – accidentally or otherwise – isn’t helping anyone. Sometimes regular contraceptives fail or aren’t used correctly, and sometimes people just get carried away. Our job is not to judge women for what happened the night before, but to help them to make an informed decision about what happens next.

Contraception is a mutual responsibility, isn’t it?

Some men protest that they “don’t like to wear condoms”, some men assume women were on the pill and some men break their promise to pull out. Why should a woman be judged if she protects herself against an unwanted pregnancy?

The #MyMorningAfter campaign has been accompanied by a long-awaited mainstream advert for the morning after pill, taking this experience from one shrouded in secrecy and landing it in the mainstream. The stories that have reached us from the women who are speaking out has been an eye-opening experience. I think each member of our female team came face-to-face with the shame that we had internalised: we were cautious about asking women to share with us, and at times doubted whether any would. Happily, we were wrong.

Women started coming forward, and humbled us with the generosity with which they shared their stories. From 36-year-old mothers, 20-something students, women in long-term relationships, ladies with casual partners, women who were confident and women who were scared: our #MyMorningAfter stories highlight that there is no standard morning after.

Anyone who is fertile and has a uterus has the capacity to get pregnant and this includes trans men, non-binary folk and people from every part of the gender spectrum. We are striving to make this discussion inclusive and respectful. This campaign is not just about emergency contraception: we also want to fuel a wider discussion about sex. A conversation that is free of stigma and outdated attitudes. Birth control and increasingly open attitudes towards sex have changed the world in so many positive ways, but women’s reproductive rights are still second-guessed and sometimes openly attacked all around the world.

This is an unprecedented moment for a campaign surrounding the purchase of emergency contraception. More so than other forms of contraception, it is one that remains the sole responsibility of women and it is still defined by lingering stigma attached to female sexuality. My Morning After is here to change all that, and usher in a new dawn for women.

Words by Sophia Moss

Art by Megan Storey


My Morning After is an open forum for people to share their unique experiences of taking the morning after pill. Submit your #MyMorningAfter story, read womxn’s accounts and get educated at the My Morning After website.