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Monday, June 1, 1998 Published at 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK


Morning after pill should be 'more easily available'

Birth Control Trust: "We know that this will be opposed by the anti-sex brigade."

Debate on the merits of taking the morning after pill off prescription
A campaign to make the 'morning after' emergency contraception pill more easily accessible has sparked controversy.

The pill is currently only available on prescription, either from a GP, an accident and emergency department or a family planning clinic.

But to be effective the pill must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

And campaigners, led by the Birth Control Trust, claim it is not always possible for a women to get a prescription in time.

Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Tonge will put down an early day motion in the House of Commons next week calling for the pill to be taken off prescription. Instead, it would be readily available over the counter at a pharmacy.

However, the move has provoked bitter opposition from some quarters.

More casual sex

Valerie Riches, of Family and Youth Concern, said: "A policy like this will result in more casual sex at younger ages. Promiscuity leads to more sexually transmitted disease and we already have a serious problem of chlamidia in girls.

"Over the years, we have been told that more contraception freely available will result in less abortions, but in fact the reverse has happened."

David Nolan, of the Birth Control Trust, said the campaign was backed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Overly bureaucratic

He said: "It is overly bureaucratic and unnecessary to force women to go through any one of these hoops, and it can mean that women cannot get access in time.

"We know that this will be opposed by the anti-sex brigade. These people do not think it is appropriate for people to enjoy sex and engage in recreational sex and make hysterical noises about contraception generally.

"But hopefully this move will mean a reduction in the number of abortions and in the worry associated with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies."

The "morning after" pills are essentially high doses of traditional birth-control pills, which disrupt a woman's hormonal patterns to prevent pregnancy from occurring.

However, some, such as RU 486, causes the abortion of a fertilised egg that has already implanted in the uterus.

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