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Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox
"I have major concerns about this"
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Ann Furedi, British Pregnancy Advisory Service
"The sooner this scheme is extended the better"
 real 28k

The BBC's James Westhead
"Easier access could break the cycle of unwanted pregnancies"
 real 28k

Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 13:10 GMT
Teenagers targeted with morning-after pill

"Mature" underage girls will be offered the pill
A controversial new scheme to cut unwanted pregnancies by offering the morning-after pill in chemists is to target teenage girls.

The pilot project is backed the NHS and has been running in Manchester for three months. It will now aim to attract young girls above the age of 16 who do not want to contact their GP.


The reality is that many of these young women do require advice at a time in their life when we might feel uncomfortable about that

Edna Robinson, Manchester Health Action Zone
The pills will also be offered to girls under 16 if they are considered mature enough.

It is hoped the scheme, run by the Manchester, Trafford and Salford Health Action Zone, will help reduce the number of unwanted teenage pregancies in Manchester, currently twice the national average.

Safety checks

Women are currently given the pills at pharmacists following careful safety checks by specially trained staff.

The current emergency contraceptive drug is said to prevent 75% of pregnancies if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse.


We are going to end up with moving away from the morning-after pill being the final back-up solution when all else has failed to being the drug of first choice

Stuart Horner, professor of medical ethics
It is a combined treatment - the woman takes two pills straight away and a further two pills 12 hours later - of oestrogen and progesterone.

Although the scheme has attracted opposition from pro-life groups, many doctors have voiced already voiced their support for the project which may eventually be extended to the rest of the country.

Edna Robinson, of Manchester Health Action Zone, said: "This health action zone is working with reality, and the reality is that many of these young women do require advice at a time in their life when we might feel uncomfortable about that.

"But we could argue that it would be immoral to walk away from them at the time when they need the help".

However, Professor Stuart Horner, a former chairman of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, said: "We are going to end up with moving away from the morning-after pill being the final back-up solution when all else has failed to being the drug of first choice."

The government is said to be concerned about the moral implications of the over-the-counter pill and is likely to hold public consultations before launching a nationwide programme.

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox said he had major concerns about the project.

He said young people were the very group who needed direct advice from doctors and nurses about how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, transmission of which was increasing rapidly.

He said: "At a time when we have an explosion of teenage pregnancies, I think it is the wrong message to be giving out that effectively you can do what you want and a remedy will be readily available afterwards for you.

"However well intentioned this scheme may be I think it is actually going to have the opposite result from that which it seeks. It may not be to the benefit of the patients themselves."

Dr Fox said he hoped the scheme was not extended nationwide.

"I think a lot of parents would be extremely worried about that," he said.

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29 Nov 99 |  Medical notes
Emergency contraception
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