Schools in morning-after pill anger

A SUFFOLK MP has criticised the practice of handing out the morning-after pill to schoolgirls - some as young as 13 years of age.

Craig Robinson

A SUFFOLK MP has criticised the practice of handing out the morning-after pill to schoolgirls - some as young as 13 years of age.

There are nine schools in the county that currently offer the pill to their pupils as part of their sex education programme.

Last night John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said he was concerned by the practice and would be writing to the schools within his constituency.

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The measure was also criticised by a family education charity but health bosses say it forms a small part of the county's overall sex education programme.

The nine schools handing out the morning-after pill are: Great Cornard Upper School, Stowmarket High School, Orwell and Deben high schools in Felixstowe, East Bergholt High School, Leiston High School, Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge and Stoke Park and Chantry high schools in Ipswich.

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Mr Gummer said: “I am entirely against it. These measures are dangerous and they should not be used as a means of contraception.

“Apart from the strong moral objection to them they should not be given out in schools and I will be writing to each of the headteachers in my constituency to discover the exact terms of their sex education policy. I have been very concerned about the quality and seriousness in which sex education is carried out in Suffolk for some time.”

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said health authorities were “sadly mistaken” if they thought giving school children the morning after pill would reduce rates of teenage pregnancy.

“Research shows that making the morning-after pill more readily available doesn't make the slightest difference to unintended pregnancy and abortion rates,” he said.

“In fact, there is evidence that making the morning-after pill available to underage girls may be making matters worse by encouraging some girls to become sexually active when they might not otherwise have done so. The easier it becomes for young people to access contraception, the higher the rates of sexually transmitted infections rise.

“Giving out condoms and helping girls get the morning-after pill at school gives the impression that school children are expected to have sex.”

But in a joint statement from the primary care trust and the county council, Dr Amanda Jones, deputy director of public health at NHS Suffolk, said: “Individual schools make the judgement as to whether to offer sexual health advice and support through the school, rather than leaving young people to find services themselves.

“NHS Suffolk sexual health staff are not in the business of just giving out morning-after pills. Rather, they concentrate on giving young people very good advice on how to avoid being pressured into having sex.

“Young people are advised on how to have responsible and safer sex when they are old enough and certain they wish entirely voluntarily to embark on a sexual relationship.

“Evidence from almost every developed country in the world suggests that where proper advice and guidance is readily available to young people, they will make the responsible choice."

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