Free Morning-After Pill Morally Bankrupt, Medically Flawed

Media Release 14 Dec 2012
Family First NZ is labelling a decision by the Taranaki Health Board to hand out the ‘morning-after’ pill to children as young as 12 as morally bankrupt and medically flawed because the evidence suggests it will do more harm than good, and will undermine the important role of parents.

“Sexually active teens need parental involvement – not emergency contraception – and the Health Board should not be handing out contraception like lollies. Parents should be involved in the medical care and needs of their children. What we should be asking is, why are children as young as 12 sexually active, what messages are teens receiving about sexual involvement, and what role are the parents playing,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

Research has consistently shown that increased access to emergency contraception does not result in lower pregnancy rates among adolescents and young adults, but can be associated with an increased incidence of sexual activity and sexually transmitted infections.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) acknowledges that the morning-after pill is not proven to reduce teen pregnancy rates. A 2006 report, which appeared in Obstetrics and Gynecology, reviewed 23 studies and found that “to date, no study has shown that increased access to this method reduces unintended pregnancy or abortion rates.”

And a US study just released has found increased access to emergency contraception increases the rates of sexually transmitted diseases, risk taking and a false sense of security, while doing nothing to reduce the number of abortions. The study found that more widespread use of the morning-after pill led “led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates (gonorrhoea rates), both overall and for females.”

A recent working paper for the National Poverty Center also reviewed 23 studies of emergency contraception and concluded “that the evidence points against there being an effect of EC on pregnancy or abortion rates.” Their conclusions confirm a study in the Journal of Health Economics in January 2011, conducted in the United Kingdom, which found that widespread access to emergency contraception did nothing to reduce pregnancy but increased STD rates by 12%.

Anna Glasier, director of the Lothian primary care NHS trust in Edinburgh, said several studies, including one she directed, have shown that easy access to emergency contraception has failed to have an impact. In fact pregnancy and abortion rates continue to rise in the UK, which has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe.

There are also concerns that the morning-after pill could reduce the fertility of teenage girls later in life, according to a report by the Scottish Council of Human Bioethics. Glasgow GP Anne Williams said: ‘We’d be worried about hormonal disturbances which could affect the development of young girls and their future fertility. It could be like putting the wrong grade of oil into a car – it might grind to a halt.’ But no studies have been carried out on its effect on young girls.

“Teen girls deserve to be informed of the serious consequences of early sexual activity including the impact on emotional and mental welfare and academic performance, rather than given a false sense of security and being encouraged to take risks by adults who should know better,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“The Taranaki Health Board should not be bypassing parental involvement, and we would urge them to review this decision.”

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