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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 00:10 GMT
Doubts about morning-after plan
Morning after pill
Advance morning-after pills are not cutting abortions, it is claimed
Abortions have not been cut by giving women supplies of the morning-after pill in advance, experts have claimed.

Researchers found that a 28-month scheme by Lothian Health Board had no effect on women who were not already using family planning services.

The study found people were "too embarrassed" to ask for the advance emergency contraception.

Nearly 18,000 women aged from 16 to 29 were given packs of the morning-after pill to keep at home under the scheme.

'Radical measures'

More than 4,500 of the women gave at least one course to a friend and 45% of the women used at least one of the courses themselves during the study.

They said they rarely asked for advance supplies of emergency contraception due to embarrassment and concern about being judged by health professionals as morally inadequate.

As a result of the findings, expert Dr Sally Wyke has called for "more radical measures" to get the contraceptive pills to the women who need and want them.

Enthusiasm for distributing advanced supplies of emergency contraception may be misplaced
Dr Sally Wyke

Dr Wyke, of Dundee University and the director of the Scottish School of Primary Care, was presenting the findings at the Social Dimensions of Health Institute seminar, a joint initiative between Dundee and St Andrews universities, on Friday.

Dr Wyke warned: "Enthusiasm for distributing advanced supplies of emergency contraception may be misplaced as a strategy to reduce unintended pregnancy in the UK.

"More radical solutions to getting it to the women who need and want it will have to be found.

"If advance supply of emergency contraception is to be successful in reducing abortion rates, professionals must address their concerns about emergency contraception.

Pro-life objection

"They must develop imaginative ways of encouraging women most at risk of unwanted pregnancy to take supplies home."

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service introduced a scheme in 1999 at a cost of 10.

Reacting to its launch, John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, said at the time: "We feel it is quite disingenuous to promote the morning-after pill by claiming it reduces abortion."

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