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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Morning after pill access widens
Emergency contraception
One in 20 women used the morning after pill last year
The number of women obtaining the morning after pill from chemists, walk-in centres and minor injury units has almost doubled in the last two years.

The Office for National Statistics found 38% of women in the UK got the pill from these sources last year compared to 21% in 2001-2.

One in 20 women used the emergency contraception at least once last year.

The report also showed the number of women experiencing problems obtaining the pill had fallen from 13% to 4%.

Despite the trend towards using chemists, walk-in centres and injury units, the most popular source for obtaining the pill remained a GP or practice nurse at 41%.

Under 30s

Chemists were the second most popular outlets at 27%.

Women under 30 were five times more likely as those aged 30 and over to get the emergency contraception from a walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.

John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, which is against the use of the pill, said the trend was worrying.

"Using the pill at all cheapens human life.

"But the problem with easy access is that it is undermining women's safety.

"If a women goes to a GP for the pill her medical history can be taken into account for the dangers of using the pill but this can't always be done elsewhere.


There is a small risk of ectopic pregnancy - where the embryo grows outside of the womb - when pregnancy happens despite the use of the pill.

A spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said: "The decision to allow women to buy emergency contraception from chemists was a tremendous step forward and has evidently been successful.

"The next logical step would be to allow women to buy emergency contraception in advance of need from their local pharmacy.

"The usual loud minority can be expected to make their moral objections, but it is puzzling how anyone could, in good conscience, seek to thwart a woman who has had unprotected sex and wants to lessen her chance of an unwanted pregnancy."

Chemists have been allowed to sell the morning after pill over the counter without a GP prescription since 2001.

And a spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association added: "The FPA has long been campaigning for better access to emergency contraception so we are pleased that more women are finding it easier to get hold of through a variety of different outlets.

"No method of contraception is 100% effective, so it's essential that women can quickly obtain emergency contraception to avoid an unplanned pregnancy."

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