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Government Failed to Prevent Rising Teen Pregnancies

The Government's campaign had failed to hand out morning-after pills to teenagers.This was revealed by the rising number of teenage pregnancies.// The campaign has neither reduced conception nor abortion rates.

Besides this the government has been accused of fuelling record levels of sexually transmitted diseases.

From 2002 it has been reported that the Government has spent £ 138million on its Teenage Pregnancy Strategy that gives teens easy access to the pills in pharmacies, as well as in schools.

Over the past six years there has been an immense rise in the use of pills, doubling in the past six years. However research from around the world has revealed that it has little or no effect on reducing unplanned pregnancies.

This was the damning handed out by sexual health expert Professor Anna Glasier, an advocate of the strategy in the early 1990s However she now admits that she was mistaken. She says, "Emergency contraception has been heralded as the solution to rising abortion rates - it's not."

Although ministers have promised to halve teenage pregnancy rates by 2010, figures last month revealed that the number of under-18s conceiving in England has risen by nearly 12 per cent in ten years, to 39,545 in 2004.

According to Professor Glasier there was now conclusive evidence from ten studies, including her own research that the policy had failed.

She said that at least 66,500 abortions should have been prevented in 2004 alone if it had worked. There has been a rise in abortion rates between 1984 and 2004 by 50 per cent, reaching a record of 185,000, which is the highest in Western Europe.

In 2001 the morning-after pill, taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, was made available without prescription to teens over-16.

Several clinics based at secondary schools offer the morning after pill to pupils or may arrange fast-tracked doctors' appointments.

It was found h owever that only 12 per cent of all those requesting an abortion in 2002 had tried the pill.

Professor Glasier, who is also director of sexual and reproductive health at Edinburgh University said, "Despite the clear increase in the use of emergency contraception, abortion rates have not fallen in the UK."

She did stress that she did not want to make it harder for women to get hold of emergency contraception.

Professor Glaiser said, "It will prevent pregnancy in some women some of the time - and if you don't want to get pregnant anything is better than nothing. Individuals can benefit, if you are a woman who has had unprotected sex because of a burst condom then of course it is worth it. But not as an intervention that will reduce abortion rates."

According to Dr Trevor Stammers, London GP and spokesman for the Family Education Trust, "Making the morning-after pill easier to get has had no effect on teenage pregnancies.

"But it has fuelled the increase in sexually transmitted infections because girls are deprived of medical intervention when they get it over the counter in Tesco." Dr Stammers said that he had written to the British Medical Journal almost five years ago predicting the likely failure of the policy. To complicate matters further, it has also been found that the rates of sexually transmitted infections are soaring, with almost 700,000 new diagnoses last year in England alone.

He added, "It is a blinkered view that complex human behaviour is easily fixed with a condom machine in the boys' loos, next to a machine dispensing emergency contraception.

"This was a central plank of the Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy - which has been very lucrative for emergency contraception manufacturers - but it was wrong from the start."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Our policy has always been that safe sex, using reliable contraception on a regular basis, is the best way fo r women to protect against unwanted pregnancy.

"We are working hard to reduce the demand for abortions and have invested £40million to improve access to contraceptive services nationwide.

"We have also recently reduced the VAT rate on condoms and other contraceptives - making them cheaper than ever before."

A spokesman for the Faculty of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care said emergency contraception was an important back-up.

Michaela Aston, of LIFE, said: "We now have evidence that the Government's policy of making the morning-after pill more readily available, particularly to children, will not solve this country's appalling abortion rate."


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