Morning-after pill free at Scottish pharmacies

The morning-after pill is to be given out free of charge at Scotland’s chemists. Ministers have announced the scheme as teen pregnancy rates reach their highest level since 1998.

Scottish Government statistics reveal that the rate among under-16s in 2006 had gone up to 8.1 per 1,000.

The figures suggest that Scotland is on course to fall woefully short of its target to reduce rates to 6.8 per 1,000 by 2010.

Three fifths of the 772 conceptions among under-16s in 2006 ended in abortion. In total, over 3,500 women aged below 20 terminated a pregnancy that year.

Although the Scottish Government has rejected calls to give out the morning-after pill in schools, ministers say that it should be more easily accessible.

It has not yet been decided if there will be an age limit on who can receive the pill.

Critics have warned that the move will not help reduce rates of teenage pregnancy, abortion or sexually transmitted diseases. They say the scheme will encourage risk-taking sexual behaviour.

The morning-after pill usually costs around £26 over the counter in Scotland, though it is available for free on prescription from a GP. Under the new scheme, it will be supplied free of charge by over 1,000 local chemists.

Scottish Minister for Public Health, Shona Robison, said: “We are not persuaded of the need to provide emergency contraception on school premises but do want to ensure that such services are available and are accessible in other local facilities.”

However, Dr Trevor Stammers, from the charity Family and Youth Concern, was critical of the plans.

“I am staggered that the government will be wasting taxpayers’ money on something not backed by a scrap of evidence,” he said.

“This will make money for the manufacturers but in terms of improving public health it will have no effect.”

His concerns were echoed by the Catholic Church in Scotland. A spokesman said: “This gives the false impression that careless sexual activity is OK because there is always a fix.”

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