A Christian-run medical facility in London, which is part of Britain's publicly funded healthcare system, was criticized for exercising the freedom not to prescribe the morning-after pill to patients on grounds of conscience.
The Links Medical Practice, which is a National Health Service (NHS) general practice (GP) surgery in the Mottingham area of south London, has a message put up on its door telling patients they should go to a local clinic or chemist if "a consenting doctor is not available" to prescribe contraception, according to U.K.-based The Independent.
"I know the law allows doctors to do this but I don't think it should," a patient who decided to leave the facility was quoted as saying.
General Medical Council guidelines allow doctors to refuse to prescribe certain treatments if they violate their conscience. However, the patient, who requested anonymity, said religion should not have an influence on healthcare.
Audrey Simpson, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, joined in criticizing the Christian medical facility, saying other women should also leave. "Leaving will send out a message to them that women have the right to access emergency contraception," she was quoted as saying.
Some NHS chapters and pro-choice groups have been pushing for easy availability of contraceptive pills for women and girls.
Last April, a report by NHS South East London recommended that the contraceptive pill could be made available at pharmacies without a prescription to girls as young as 13.
Dr. Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship had then criticized the report, telling BBC, "There is no clear evidence from this study that it will reduce unplanned pregnancy and abortion and there is a real risk that, by encouraging more risk-taking behavior, it could fuel the epidemic of sexually-transmitted disease."
During the 2012 Olympic Games, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) launched a service to deliver the pill free of charge to women in London on request over the phone. The pro-choice group said their "Just in Case" kit, which included condoms, was to help prevent unwanted pregnancy during the summer months.
A contraception nurse from the BPAS, Tracey Forsyth, had then responded to criticism, saying, "If you carry an umbrella in your bag or a spare tyre in your boot no-one would suggest you are hoping for rain or planning on a puncture. Having the morning-after-pill to hand is no different. It doesn't mean you're planning on taking chances, it means you're planning on protecting yourself when things don't go according to plan."