A scheme encouraging schoolgirls as young as 11 to request the morning-after pill by text message undermines parents and will lead to more promiscuity and teenage pregnancies, say campaigners.
The pilot scheme is being introduced by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust after the county saw a sharp rise in pregnancies among girls aged 18 and under.
From July, girls at six Oxfordshire secondary schools will be able to text requests for the morning-after pill to a school nurse who can supply the pill during breaktime.
The service will also operate on weekends and holidays, with the nurse arranging to meet the pupil or directing her to another local source.
Parents will not automatically be informed of their daughters’ requests, but child protection staff will be alerted if a girl aged under 13 uses the service.
Oxfordshire County Council declined to reveal which schools are involved in the scheme as this might attract “unhelpful attention”.
A statement issued by the Council and Primary Care Trust said: “This service would provide an extra level of support for those young people who think they have taken a risk, or have another health problem, and don’t want to approach a doctor or a pharmacist but can text a nurse and ask what they can do.”
The move was branded “sadly mistaken” by Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust.
He said the scheme risked making teenage pregnancy and abortion rates worse “by encouraging some girls to become sexually active when they might not otherwise have done so.”
Daily Mail columnist Allison Pearson said: “Only an idiot or a greedy pharmaceutical company would not be worried that these moves will lead to more unprotected sex.
“If you make it painless for young girls to behave recklessly, then reckless behaviour is what you’ll get.”
Liz Hunt of the Daily Telegraph warned that “parents are right to feel that they are being undermined, and their role in overseeing their child’s health and wellbeing supplanted by the state”.
But Oxfordshire County Councillor Louise Chapman rejected all concerns, claiming: “We’d be foolish to think there was something we could do to stop young people having sex.”