This is the latest suggestion in an NHS report. The scheme has already been trialled for four years in two London boroughs which have a high teenage pregnancy rate. Since the scheme was introduced, requests for the morning-after pill have dropped. Researchers admit it is too soon to say if pregnancy rates have fallen.
Currently, the over-the-counter contraceptive pill has been given to girls over 16 but the report suggests the scheme should be widened to include girls as young as 13. In Manchester and the Isle of Wight girls aged 13 and over have had access to it at a pharmacy.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society says they support the move, adding: "We are confident that pharmacists who supply oral contraception to young people will follow exactly the same guidelines as doctors and nurses."
But is this the point? Currently, GPs admit that although they are allowed to prescribe the pill to girls under the age of 16, they face a dilemma, because the age of consent is 16. GPs have to have a discussion with any under-age girl before they prescribe it and they usually agree to prescribe the pill if they think there is a risk of her becoming pregnant.
Should girls of 13 be having sex anyway? The fact is that some are; whether their parents know or care is another matter.
The average age for teenagers losing their virginity is 16 – compared to 21 in the 1950s- but a third of teenagers are under 16 when they first have sex.
In 2009, there were 7,900 pregnancies amongst girls under the age of 16 in the UK - almost the same as 10 years previously. The highest number was in the North East where 11 pregnancies in 1000 were to girls aged 13-15. The UK has one of the highest under age pregnancy rates in the developed world.
One of the problems this raises is the potential rise in sexually transmitted infections. How many girls are going to risk infections because they use the pill and nothing else? And what about the greater risk of cervical cancer? Early sex, along with smoking, is one of the chief factors in the development of cervical cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK the more sexual partners you have, and the younger you are when you first have sex, the greater the risk of being infected with HPV which causes cancer.
Are girls of 13 mature enough to have sexual relationships? Many people would say no. Girls who start being sexually active at a young age have low self esteem, are susceptible to peer pressure and, statistics show, tend to come from single parent, fatherless families.
Raising self-esteem, and helping teens to have goals and interests other than finding a boyfriend or girlfriend is surely right, but some parents' lives are so unstable and chaotic that they don't give the input their children need, no matter how much we hope they will.
But if girls under the age of 16 can access the pill through a pharmacy, might this not have benefits? If a third of teenagers are having sex before they are 16, that's a lot of potential unwanted pregnancies. It's easy for adults to lecture teenagers about the risks of early sex but the fact is that many teenagers consider themselves ready for sex at 15 or 16.
Although most adults would want their children to regard sex as something with some meaning attached to it, there are teenagers who regard it as another recreational activity, and no big deal.
Pharmacists are qualified enough to dispense drugs, and girls who ask for the pill would have a private consultation with them, taking their medical history into account. What it would mean is that a girl could walk into any pharmacy and ask for the pill; much easier than having to make an appointment with her GP either before or after school, something they may find hard to do and keep confidential.
Most parents I've spoken to would rather their daughters were open about their relationships, and waited until they were older before having sex. But the reality is that many teenagers would rather do anything than discuss their sex lives with their parents.
Making the pill more easily available should not mean an increase in under age sex; what it should do is help those teens who are already sexually active less likely to become pregnant.
Is that not a good move?
What do you think?
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