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'Head in the Sand Medicine'

25 August 2000

'Head-in-the-Sand Medicine' Westminster, 25 August 2000--The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has accused the Southern Derbyshire Health Authority of cynically misleading the public over suggestions that a scheme to make the morning-after pill available from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription will address the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the area. It was announced today that the trial will initially involve seven pharmacies in the Amber Valley area. Similar trials are already underway in Manchester and south London. John Smeaton, national director of SPUC, said: "The health authority claims that the scheme will reduce unwanted pregnancy, but evidence suggests that it will lead to greater levels of teenage pregnancy and abortion, as well as permanent damage to young minds and society in general. The scheme is not evidence-based medicine, but head-in-the-sand medicine. The morning-after pill has been heavily promoted for years and freely available on prescription, but during that time the numbers of unwanted pregnancies and abortions have in fact increased." Mr Smeaton stressed that it was wrong to present the morning-after pill as a contraceptive because it worked as an abortifacient. He observed: "The morning-after pill makes the womb hostile to any newly-conceived baby and, as such, can cause an abortion. Many women would think twice about using the drug if they knew this fact. To make the morning-after pill even more freely available without making known its true nature is an insult to women." Criticising the health authority's statement that the pills will be given to girls under the age of 16 if the pharmacist considers them to be "competent", Mr Smeaton is asking the authority to explain what legal basis they have for such a plan. He suggested that pharmacists will be required to co-operate in the illegal activity of sex with underage girls. Pointing out that 122 girls under the age of 16 have requested the pill in the Manchester trial area, Mr Smeaton continued: "Common sense suggests that the easier availability of the morning-after pill will leave under-age teenage girls at greater risk of sexual abuse and under greater pressure to engage in casual sex." Mr Smeaton also pointed out the various side-effects of the morning-after pill, which include severe nausea, vomiting, tender breasts and blood-clotting. There may also be a risk of ectopic pregnancies which are a significant cause of maternal death. He continued: "By offering women only a brief consultation and dispensing the pill without reference to her medical history, serious medical problems could result." Mr Smeaton concluded: "This move by the Southern Derbyshire Health Authority is both irresponsible and potentially highly damaging to the health of local women."

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