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The BBC's Stephen Evans
"It is confidential and controversial"
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The BBC's Health Correspondent, Karen Allen
"They say they have had to face up to the realities of teenage sex"
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Monday, 8 January, 2001, 13:34 GMT
Schools give out morning after pill
nurse pill
More school nurses may give the morning after pill
Schools are being allowed to dispense the morning-after pill to underage pupils without their parents' knowledge.

Health authorities have agreed to give out the powerful contraceptive to state school pupils in an attempt to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies.

The fact that they can go to school and be given the morning after pill without their parents' knowledge is an absolute disgrace

Jenny Bacon
The pill, which can be taken after intercourse to prevent pregnancy, is six times stronger than normal contraceptive pills, and frequent use is discouraged.

It is to become available over-the-counter to the over-16s at pharmacies nationwide within the next few months.

However, some schools have already started giving it to underage pupils, and more may be planning to do so.

In addition, medical confidentiality rules mean that while a parent can be told if the school's policy is to do this, he or she cannot be told if their own child has received the morning-after pill.

Dr Crane
Dr Michael Crane supports the scheme
The John Port School in Derbyshire is one of those whose nurse, Val Oborn, is prepared to dispense the morning after pill.

She told the BBC that most approaching her would get their morning after pill from another source if the school could not help.

She said: "I feel that because I know them very well, I can give them the counselling they need and follow them up."

Headteacher Dr Michael Crane said: "Throughout the term I have been to parents' evenings where parents have been up to me and expressed their positive support.

"Obviously some are disappointed that they couldn't be more involved."

Angry response

However, the mother of a girl who died after taking the standard contraceptive pill today called for a ban on giving emergency contraception to under-age girls without parental consent.

Jenny Bacon's daughter Caroline suffered a stroke aged 15.

I feel that because I know them very well, I can give them the counselling they need and follow them up

Val Oborn, school nurse, John Port School
Her daughter started taking the contraceptive pill without her consent at the age of 14.

Ms Bacon said: "We know that young people under the age of 16 have been able to get the morning after pill from clinics anyway for a long time."

"But the fact that they can go to school and be given the morning after pill without their parents' knowledge is an absolute disgrace."

Underage requests

Pilot schemes in the UK to make the morning-after pill available from pharmacies found that a small proportion of those asking for the medication were underage girls.

In Manchester, Salford and Trafford Health Action Zone, more than 100 under-16s asked for the drug.

While fears over unwanted teenage pregnancy have prompted the new school schemes, some groups are fiercely opposed.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Association, said: "It trivialises contraception - lays them open to pressure for casual sex and at risk from sexually-transmitted disease."

A study carried out by the University of Nottingham found that many teenagers given the conventional contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancy became pregnant simply because they were not taking the drug correctly.

The Department of Health said it was committed to halving the rate of conceptions for under-18s by 2010.

"Issuing the pill to girls under 16 is a matter for individual healthcare trusts," said a DoH spokeswoman.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that school nurses would have to seek the permission of school heads before issuing the morning after pill.

David Hart, NAHT General Secretary, said: "Headteachers are extremely unlikely to give that approval unless they have first cleared this with their governing bodies and have alerted the parent body to this situation.

"The need to reduce the current level of teenage pregnancies is undoubtedly urgent, but health trusts and school nurses cannot operate independently of schools."

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17 Aug 00 | Health
Teenage girls fail with Pill
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