Earlier access to `next day' Pill

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The Independent Online
FROM TODAY the British Pregnancy Advisory Service will prescribe the "morning-after" pill in advance of need. Previously, the contraceptive was only available after unprotected sex.

The service will charge pounds 10 for the contraceptive through its network of local clinics. Its spokeswoman, Ann Furedi, said: "Women know about the morning-after Pill but are not using it. Many women have problems making appointments to get it. Women are far more likely to use emergency contraception if they have it to hand."

Ian H Jones, the service's chief executive, said emergency contraception works for 72 hours after unprotected sex, but is 50 per cent more effective if taken within 12 hours.

But the deputy director of Family and Youth Concern, Cornelia Oddie, said that if young girls have a supply of these pills readily available "their last excuse to say no has been taken away". She said sexually transmitted diseases increased by 30 per cent between 1996 and 1997 among young girls.

Since the Victoria Gillick ruling in the 1980s, there has been no lower limit on the age of girls eligible to receive contraception, subject to the judgement of the prescribing doctor.