11th September 2010
Girls as young as 13 are to be given the contraceptive Pill without seeing a doctor.
For the first time, teenagers below the legal age of consent will be able to get the Pill from high street pharmacies in a project that could eventually be adopted nationwide.
The scheme is being introduced to try to give young girls greater access to contraception in an attempt to reduce soaring underage pregnancy rates.
But critics point out that such a move could actually encourage girls to become more promiscuous, effectively giving them a ‘licence’ to have more sex.
There is no evidence that providing the Pill on demand reduces teenage pregnancies and there are concerns that it also increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections
by making youngsters less inclined to use condoms.
The Pill also has rare, but potentially dangerous, side effects including blood clots and there are fears pharmacists may not carry out the same health checks as doctors.
The trial scheme will see high street chains including Boots, Lloyds and smaller independent chemists on the Isle of Wight will begin providing the Pill to girls aged 13 to 25 without a doctor’s prescription.
Those who visit the chemist for the morning-after pill – the emergency contraceptive – will also be offered a month’s supply of the progesterone-only Pill.
Under current rules, women must visit their GP for a thorough consultation before they are able to get the contraceptive.
But under the scheme which will begin in November, ten pharmacies will provide the Pill without the need for a doctor’s prescription, under the direction of the Isle of Wight Primary Care Trust.
If the girls want additional supplies they will have to make an appointment with their GP or a sexual health nurse – they will not be able to get more from the chemist.
Although the morning-after pill is already available at pharmacies without direct authorisation from a doctor, the Government has so far been reluctant to allow chemists to sell the Pill over the counter.
A pilot scheme in Southwark and Lambeth, two areas of London with the highest teenage pregnancy rates, allows women to get the Pill from a few pharmacies but only if they are over 16, above the age of consent.
Critics say the latest initiative involving girls as young as 13 is ‘dangerous’.
Labour MP Jim Dobbin said: ‘At that age girls are too young to make up their minds about these sorts of issues. Parents should be involved.
‘There are also dangers associated with the Pill and we don’t know what harm it can cause over the long-term. The Pill doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections at all.’