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Easier access to morning after pills will increase abortions

10 December 2000

Easier access to morning-after pills "will increase abortions" Westminster, 10 December 2000--Greater availability of morning-after pills will lead to more abortions, according to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, said: "The morning-after pill can cause abortions by making the womb a hostile place for the recently-conceived embryo. The government has admitted that it cannot provide evidence that provision of such pills reduces the number of conventional abortions. "The department of health has been promoting morning-after pills for 10 years, yet the abortion-rate has increased. Despite nearly a million prescriptions for morning-after pills' being issued each year, the number of registered abortions was at its highest ever in 1998. "Making pharmacists, instead of GPs, responsible for providing morning-after pills will increase the risk of mis-use and harm to women. Pharmacists cannot check patients' medical records to ensure that they are not in a high-risk group for taking the morning-after pill, nor can they ensure that women and girls receive adequate after-care. Pharmacists may also find themselves legally liable for events beyond their control. "It will be difficult if not impossible to ensure that morning-after pills do not get into the hands of girls aged under 16. Easier provision of the pills could well lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. "Provision of the morning-after pill goes against two basic tenets of the Labour health philosophy. It fails the test of 'evidence-based medicine' because it has not been shown to reduce unwanted pregnancies. It also fails the test of 'informed choice' because women are being misled about how it works and what it does. Morning-after pills are described as emergency contraception yet they can work in an abortifacient way." Mr Tully also challenged the government to provide the statistical and clinical results of its regional trials of provision of morning-after pills over pharmacists' counters. Last month, in a response to a written parliamentary question from Rt Hon John Gummer MP, Ms Yvette Cooper, the public health minister, admitted that, while the morning-after pill could have an effect on the abortion rate, it was not possible to produce evidence that it had. Morning-after pills not only prevent or delay ovulation. They can also affect the lining of the womb so that embryos cannot implant and will consequently die. SPUC plans to mount protests outside chemists' shops in the new year. Members of the organisation will seek to alert customers to the nature of the morning-after pill and the consequences of its use. The Independent website today reports that Mr Alan Milburn, the health secretary, will tomorrow lay an order in parliament which will allow the sale of the Levonelle morning-after pill to women of 16 and over. The measure would come in to effect on new year's day.

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