Letter: Pregnant teens

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Sir: Lynn Eaton's article "The morning after could be too late" (19 January) highlights why it is important for emergency contraception to be more readily available. The problem lies in GPs who insist on appointments only in 2-3 days' time, overburdened casualty departments and fewer family planning clinics.

Last year I launched a campaign in the House of Commons for the deregulation of emergency contraception. I tabled an early day motion which is backed by more than 80 MPs with cross-party support. The campaign is backed by the Family Planning Association, the Birth Control Trust, the Brook Advisory Service, the British Medical Association, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

A pilot scheme in Washington State, USA, allows emergency contraception to be available on prescription under a protocol agreed by doctors to allow their local nurses and pharmacists to dispense it. The nurses and pharmacists are trained to ask the right questions. There would be no difficulty in making emergency contraception available in the UK in this way.

Emergency contraception is not a substitute for better sex education or regular contraception. However, emergency contraception is a practical way to deal with the world as it is and its wider use would prevent the high rate of abortion amongst young women in this country. We have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe: 8.5 per 1,000 amongst under-16-year-olds and 8.5 per 1,000 for 16- to 19-year-olds. One half to one third of these pregnancies end in abortion.

Proposals to make emergency contraception more readily available do not make women more vulnerable. Young women are most vulnerable when they have nobody to turn to.


(Lib Dem, Richmond Park)

House of Commons

London SW1