Campaigners say offering the drug at 'pocket money prices' gives a misleading impression

Jacob Rees-Mogg has expressed dismay at the decision by the Chemist 4 U retailer to sell packs of the morning-after pill for £4.99 – a third of their usual price.

Asked about the news on LBC, he said: “That’s a great sadness.” Prompted to explain further, he said: “Because life begins at conception.”

The morning-after pill is widely regarded as contraception but may at times end life by stopping a fertilised egg from implanting itself in the womb.

Earlier this year the pharmacist Boots had refused to lower prices on the pill in case it “incentivised inappropriate use” – but backtracked after Labour MPs threatened a boycott.

Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics, criticised Chemist 4 U for selling the pills at “pocket money prices”.

She told the Telegraph: “These are really serious drugs – it worries me that even regardless of the moral issues, selling at these prices and without proper consultation is misleading women into thinking this is routine contraception, and something that can be treated casually.”

Dr Anthony McCarthy, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc), described the cut-price pill as “alarming news” and said it posed a risk to women’s health.

“We know that with morning-after pill use abortion rates do not go down overall but STDs increase due to more sexual risk-taking. Will women be made aware of the risks to them and possible risks to their embryos? The pill is sold as contraception but may work at least sometimes by stopping an embryo from implanting in the mother’s womb. This kills the embryo even though the mother may not know this.”

Shamir Patel, director and pharmacist with Chemist 4 U, told the Telegraph that women were advised to stock up on the morning-after pill.

“We always advise women in an emergency situation, to go to their nearest pharmacy that day, rather than waiting a day to receive it from an online pharmacy,” he said.

“However, our belief is that an advanced supply from us avoids the panic in the unlikely event of barrier method failure. We advise all patients that EHC should not be used as a regular contraceptive method.”