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Family advocates' concerns over giving abortifacient pills to 11-year-olds

16 July 2007

Campaigners in Britain have voiced concern that provision of the abortifacient morning-after pill to young girls is likely to encourage teenagers to have sex. Responding to news that girls as young as 11 can now be given the pill without their parents' knowledge, Mr Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern, said: "Making contraception and the morning-after pill available to under-16s sends out the message that there is nothing wrong with underage sex and undermines the law on the age of consent. It inevitably results in young men putting pressure on vulnerable girls to have sex by telling them that, if they are worried about getting pregnant, they can always go to the school nurse and get the morning-after pill without anyone needing to know. Most schools which are giving out the morning-after pill to pupils in the belief that it will reduce teenage pregnancy rates are unaware of the fact that they are flying in the face of international research evidence. No [fewer] than 23 studies from 10 countries have found that increased access to the morning-after pill has made not the slightest difference to unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. In fact, there is evidence that making it available to underage girls in strict confidence may be making matters worse by encouraging some girls to become sexually active when they might not otherwise have done so." [EADT, 13 July]

Proposals to merge the British fertility and embryology regulators have met with criticism from doctors and scientists. The merger between the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority was proposed by the Department of Health in 2004 in order to cut costs. The plan to replace the two authorities with a new Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos (Rate) has recently been criticised by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Pathologists, the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal College of Nursing. The BMA said: "The problem is that the body that is responsible for making decisions will not have expertise in the areas it is regulating. As a result, there is a very real risk that Rate will lack credibility and the confidence of those regulated, the public and Parliament ... It will be difficult for Rate to reject the advice of expert groups and so it is likely to be seen as simply 'rubber-stamping' their decisions." [Times, 13 July]

A pregnant woman has been flown by helicopter from Ireland to Scotland in an attempt to save her unborn twins. Ms Karen Shaw, 29, was visiting family in County Derry when it became necessary for her to be taken to hospital. It was found that there were not two neo-natal cots available anywhere in Northern Ireland and so she was taken by Royal Navy helicopter to Wishaw General Hospital, North Lanarkshire. She has not yet given birth. [Belfast Telegraph, 12 July]

French schoolchildren are to be shown a Romanian film about abortion. 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days is about a teenage girl obtaining an illegal abortion in the final years of the régime of Nicolae Ceausescu, the communist dictator. It reportedly focuses on the psychological price the girl pays as she attempts to end her child's life. The film won France's National Education Prize, which grants government funding to create a DVD version for schools. Ms Christine Juppé-Leblond, who created the award, said: "The film is unsettling but it deals seriously and delicately with a subject that affects today's teenagers. The best way to tackle it is to give teachers the educational tools to talk about it, as this movie does." [LifeSite, 12 July]

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