Doctors are prescribing the oral contraceptive to increasing numbers of girls aged just 11 and 12, new figures reveal.
More than 1,000 girls aged 11 and 12 were prescribed the pill in the past year, usually without their parents' knowledge. This means that the number of pre-teenage girls on the Pill has increased five-fold in the past decade.
On top of this, another 200 girls aged between 11 and 13 were given long-term implanted or injectable contraceptive devices.
Although the age of consent in Britain is 16, GPs are allowed to prescribe the Pill to children if they believe an underage girl is mature enough to have sex. Parents have no right to be told if their children are being given the Pill.
The figures, which come from the General Practice Research Database, show that three in every 10,000 children aged 11 – and three out of every 1,000 12-year-olds – were prescribed the Pill last year. Across the whole of Britain, that works out at more than 1,000 children under the age of 13.
The database also reveals that at least 58,000 children aged 15 were on the Pill last year compared with 23,000 in 1999. Hundreds of children under 16 were using other forms of long-term contraception, the figures show.
The latest figures have provoked outrage among family campaigners, who believe that children are becoming increasingly sexualized.
But professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told the Daily Mail that he believed that the rise in contraception among young girls was a reflection of improved sex education rather than a rise in sexual activity.
What do you think?
However uneasy it may make us feel, is prescribing the Pill to 11 and 12-year-olds simply a necessary response to the fact that some children are sexually active so young?