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Are you a feminist (i.e. do you believe that men and women ought to be equal in society)? If so, then whatever your other political stance may be, you need to be pro-NHS.

Let me explain.

First, we should compare the situation in the UK (NHS), with the situation in the states (privatised medicine). A woman needing contraception in the UK can get it the same day she asks for it for free in a walk-in clinic without an appointment. She doesn’t need to pay. You doesn’t need anyone else’s permission. A woman in the US needs to buy the contraceptive pill, and ideally in order not to bankrupt herself doing so on a long-term basis, needs to have medical insurance. She needs to pay for it (I think it’s something like $50, but correct me if I’m wrong), or if she can’t afford it, she has to either do without sex, or face the fact that she might get pregnant on either no contraception, or less reliable long-term options. She can only get access to it under her medical insurance if she has her employer’s permission, or the permission of the university (/college) she attends.

In a privatised healthcare system, it is your employer, rather than you, that decides on the moral boundaries of your contraceptive choice. If you want your freedom, you pay. Some catholic universities won’t even sell it on site, so you have to travel to get hold of it.

Adequate contraception saves female lives, allows women to be independent, to enjoy the same sexual freedoms as men, to control their own bodies. It has been one of the most powerful tools in women’s liberation. It should be free. It should be available to anyone and everyone regardless of money, religious beliefs and any other concern. If we privatise our healthcare in the UK, I am afraid we will lose it.

The NHS isn’t perfect, but it’s not perfect because the government isn’t perfect. It’s imperfectly funded. It’s staffed and run by fallible, imperfect humans. So would private hospitals be. Only they would cost patients money. Lots of money.

There’s sometimes a mistaken belief that private medicine would give us more choice than the NHS. That’s not true. It means that the choices would be in the hands of people running companies for profit, or powerful people in high places – employers, university chancellors, etc. – making those choices for us as they calculate our insurance package.

Aside from the fact that human health and a human life isn’t a product to be bought and sold, we should be very proud – and protective – of our NHS. I certainly am. I don’t want to imagine a world without it. I don’t want to have to live in one.

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