Special clinics for `morning after' pill on Jan 1

SPECIAL CLINICS are to open on New Year's Day to distribute supplies of the "morning after" contraceptive pill.

Emergency supplies will also be issued from hospital accident and emergency units in the aftermath of the celebrations on 31 December.

Health ministers are drawing up the contingency plans, which will undoubtedly attract controversy, because of fears that people may go "a little too far" in celebrating the millennium - and only worry about the consequences afterwards.

"We are pretty sure that there will be lots of unprotected sex on millennium night and we have to make some sort of contingency plans, which we are doing now," said one minister yesterday.

Ministers are also aware that many family doctors will be taking a few days extra off around the new year, and so hospitals and clinics may feel the extra strain. The plans will draw criticism from moralists and pro-life campaigners. Ministers may also be accused of encouraging "wild abandon" up and down the country on Millennium Eve.

They are ready to rebut the charges, and insist that they have a responsibility to help women who want to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Similarly, they are keen to deny claims that they are encouraging under- age sex, saying that girls below the age of consent will not be encouraged to think they can use the "morning after" pill as a form of regular contraception.