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The BBC's Alison Holt
"The morning after pill is no substitute for sex education"
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Shadow Health Secretary, Dr Liam Fox
"Many people would regard this as being a type of abortion"
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GP, Dr Trevor Stammers
and Paul Tulley of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child discuss the issues
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Monday, 11 December, 2000, 14:40 GMT
Pill row takes new turn
morning after pill
The decision aims to curb the number of unwanted pregnancies
Family doctors want the morning after pill to be available to girls under the age of 16.

A DoH spokesman confirmed that emergency contraception would be available sold without prescription for the first time after 1 January, 2001 - but only to girls aged 16 and above.

However, GPs' leaders at the British Medical Association (BMA) claimed the move did not go far enough.

If pharmacists can assess if it is appropriate for someone to have post-coital contraception, they should be able to assess girls under 16 years

Dr John Chisholm, British Medical Association
Dr John Chisholm, the BMA's GP leader, said : "We welcome the Secretary of State's decision but would have liked him to go further.

"If pharmacists can assess if it is appropriate for someone to have post-coital contraception, they should be able to assess girls under 16 years."

This is excellent news and long overdue

Dr Jenny Tonge
Lib Dem MP
Health Secretary Alan Milburn will push the controversial move by laying an order in Parliament on Monday.

The decision, aimed at curbing the number of unwanted pregnancies, is expected to anger religious and pro-family campaigners.

Britain has a higher rate of unwanted pregnancies than many other countries in Europe.

But anti-abortion groups and family groups say that making morning-after contraception more easily available may encourage younger people to have unprotected sex.

'Moral and health issues'

This view was echoed by shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, who told BBC One's Breakfast With Frost programme that the decision raised both moral and health issues.

Mr Milburn will make the drug available over the chemist counter to women over the age of 16, the Independent on Sunday newspaper reports.

However, women hoping to find the pill in store on 1 January, 2001 are likely to be disappointed, the paper says.

Pharmacists warn the pills, expected to cost 20, may not be generally available until the following month.

It must always be in a woman's interest to consult her own doctor

Ann Widdecombe
Dr Jenny Tonge, Liberal Democrat MP for London's Richmond Park, said: "This is excellent news and long overdue.

"As a family planning doctor for over 20 years before I came in to Parliament I have campaigned long and hard for women to be able to control their fertility in this safe and effective way.

"It is not an abortion. It is very safe, and I hope it will prevent many unplanned pregnancies in the future."

A spokeswoman for FPA, formerly the Family Planning Association, said: "Increasing access to emergency contraception is important as it recognises that no one method of contraception is 100% reliable.

"Emergency contraception has a vital role to play, either when contraception has failed or after unprotected sexual intercourse.

"FPA believes that increasing access to emergency contraception through trained pharmacists will help prevent unplanned pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions."

'Alarmed and appalled'

But Ms Widdecombe said: "It doesn't at all fit in with my moral views as to what should happen.

"There are very big questions health-wise as to whether it will encourage even more teenage sexual activity, as to whether it will encourage people into unprotected sexual activity.

"When the pilot schemes were on we found women actually preferring to travel to the pilots rather than to consult their own doctors.

"It must always be in a woman's interest to consult her own doctor."

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said he was "alarmed and appalled" by the decision.

"Making the morning-after pill available to all girls over 16 in this way sends the wrong message about the need for responsible sexual activity," he said.

"It can only increase the risk of worsening the current epidemic of sexually transmitted disease."

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29 Nov 99 | Medical notes
Emergency contraception
07 Jul 99 | Latest News
Women to get emergency pill
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