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Girls as young as 13 to get morning-after pill
28/02/07
SCHOOLGIRLS as young as 13 are to be supplied with the morning-after pill in a desperate attempt to cut teen pregnancies.


In a controversial move, pharmacies are to hand out the pills free to youngsters who fear they might be pregnant, without the consent of their parents.

The morning-after pill became available over the counter in 2001 and can be bought by anyone over 16.

In this latest move to reduce teen pregnancies, which has been attacked by pro-life groups and religious leaders, girls will not need parental consent for the pill but will need to prove their age.

Health chiefs in Portsmouth that insist the move is necessary to slash the number of teenage pregnancies in their area. Pregnancies among girls aged 15 to 17 in the city are around 26 per cent above the national average.

Although the age of consent for sex is 16, no fewer than 7,464 girls under that age – some as young as 13 – became pregnant in England in 2005, a rise of 283 on 2004.

Nearly six in 10 pregnancies ended in abortion. This was the biggest single annual increase in under-age pregnancies for a decade.

Many chemists now provide the morning-after pill either free on the NHS, or over the counter for around £25.

That has meant fewer women and young girls going to their GP for wider contraceptive advice.

Portsmouth health chiefs say the 12 pharmacists taking part in the new scheme will check whether the girls understand the pros and cons.

They must also check girls’ health and possibly refer them to a GP or family-planning clinic.

At the Portsmouth City Primary Care Trust, public health director Paul Edmondson-Jones said: "At the moment you can buy emergency contraception over the counter for about £25. But that amount is a huge barrier."

Life charity spokeswoman Michaela Aston said the move was "very very worrying".

She added: "The morning-after pill is a strong drug that is 50 times more powerful than the mini pill."
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