The Government wants more girls – some as young as 13 – to be given long-acting contraception jabs as it struggles to reach its targets for cutting teenage pregnancy.
This “urgent action” is required “to accelerate progress to the 2010 [teenage pregnancy] target”, ministers have told 21 local authorities.
But dismayed family campaigners say there is no evidence the scheme will work, and warn that it could simply encourage risky sexual behaviour.
Ministers have singled out councils in teenage pregnancy ‘hotspots’ with letters telling them to establish more “school-based contraception clinics” and to bring about “an overall increase in the uptake of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)”.
LARC comes in the form of an injection or implant lasting for three months. It can be administered at school to teenagers as young as 13 without their parents’ knowledge.
The Government has pledged to have halved 1998’s teenage pregnancy rates by 2010, a target it is unlikely to reach.
Despite millions of pounds being diverted towards the provision of contraceptives, sexual health clinics and publicity campaigns, the UK’s teenage pregnancy rate has fallen only slightly and is still the highest in Western Europe.
The Department of Health has given assurance that no 13-year-old will be forced to take up the offer of long-term contraception, but campaigners say it shouldn’t be promoted to young girls at all.
Dr Hans Christian Raabe, a GP and medical coordinator of the Council for Health and Wholeness, said: “There are concerns that using them over long periods might have an impact on bone growth.
“The other issue is it gives an impression of safety that is not there. Girls will think ‘Nothing can happen to me because I can’t get pregnant.’
“But the rates of sexually transmitted diseases are frightening. There has been an explosion and yet young people are given a false sense of security.
“And will it work? I have not seen a single convincing study to show that the provision of contraception leads to a reduction in teenage pregnancy. What is needed is behavioural change.”
Sue Pheasant, a parent and sex education campaigner, said: “It seems the answer to everything is a pill or an injection. Young people are very confused.
“We really need to say to them that if you don’t want to get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted disease, just say no, and give them the resources and support so they are able to do that.”
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