In a bid to reduce underage pregnancy rates, girls as young as 13 will be able to get the Pill from their local pharmacy - without seeing their doctor or having their parents' consent.
The scheme is being piloted on the Isle of Wight where 10 pharmacies will be able to dish out the Pill to girls from 13 onwards without a prescription.
From this week, girls who visit one of the 10 pharmacies requesting the morning-after pill for emergency contraceptive will also be offered a month's supply of the progesterone only Pill. The Isle of Wight Primary Care trust says this Pill has fewer side effects than the combined Pill and therefore does not always necessitate a doctor's visit before prescribing. If they want more than a month's supply, they will have to visit their doctor or nurse first.
A spokesperson from the Isle of Wight NHS Primary Care Trust hit back at critics who claimed the plans would encourage sexual activity and promiscuity in children.
Jennifer Smith said: 'They are already sexually active, we haven't encouraged them to be sexually active. I would suggest that what we're doing is being entirely responsible by providing contraception to these most vulnerable women, for whom, for the most part, pregnancy is not a good outcome.'
Conservative MP Andrew Turner condemned the scheme, saying: 'How can adults bring up their children if their children can go into a shop, more or less, and be handed over something which is so significant? We expect parents to take responsibility for their children. They are undermined if the NHS hands out contraceptives to girls with no medical examination or consideration of their circumstances. Underage sex is illegal and dangerous.'
Mr Turner intends to take the matter up with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
Other critics deemed the idea 'dangerous' and warned that it could cause an increase in sexually transmitted infections.
Norman Wells from the pressure group Family and Youth Concern said:
'This scheme is giving girls as young as 13 a licence to engage in illegal sexual activity and denying them the protection that the law on the age of consent is intended to give.
'It will inevitably lead to boys putting even more pressure on girls to have sex. The PCT is being extremely naive if it imagines that making it easier for teenage girls to obtain the Pill will bring any public health benefit.'
Labour MP Jim Dobbin also voiced his concerns, telling reporters: '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.'
What do you think?
Do you support this scheme as a sensible way to reduce teen pregnancies?
Or are girls of 13 too young to take on board the health risks associated with the pill?
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