The Christian Institute

News Release

Minister’s pill plan cuts age of consent to 16?

Health Minister Bairbre de Brún wants to legalise the sale of the morning after pill from chemist’s shops for women over the age of 16, even though the age of consent is 17 in Northern Ireland. The Minister has tabled an order before the Westminster Parliament along with English Health Minister, Yvette Cooper. Sale of the pill is underway on a temporary basis pending a key vote in the House of Lords.

Just before the vote next Monday (29th) a new report has attacked the move. Colin Hart, Director of the Christian Institute and co-author of the report, said today:

“Selling the morning after pill to 16 year olds profoundly undermines the age of consent at 17. How can the Police ever enforce the age of consent law if the Executive use another law to undermine it?

The morning after pill can act as a form of abortion by preventing the embryo implanting in the womb. Following a legal ruling in 1983 this was held not to be legal abortion. But morally speaking it is abortion. Until now the drug has only been available under a doctor’s prescription. Under the Minister’s plan there is no restriction on the numbers of pills sold at once.”


The Christian Institute’s report argues that the initiative will lead to more unsafe sex and promiscuous behaviour amongst the young. This is particularly dangerous with the unprecedented number of cases of infection by sexually transmitted diseases.

Use of the morning after pill can lead to an ectopic pregnancy and there have been no long term studies on the effects of repeated use.

The report highlights the fact that in the rest of the UK outside Northern Ireland the abortion rate has continued to increase even though ’emergency contraception’ has been available through GPs for over ten years.

The report argues that the Health Minister’s plan has many serious medical pitfalls:

  • GPs will be completely unaware of how many times their women patients have taken the morning after pill. Information crucial to medical treatment decisions will be simply absent from the medical record.
  • Conversely, since the morning after pill will not be on prescription, pharmacists will have no access to the GP.
  • It will be a simple matter for girls under 16 to buy the pill. They may use the kind of fake ID which is so easily available. Some pharmacists will simply not bother to check. There are already documented cases of this.
  • A lengthy counselling procedure is hopelessly impractical for a busy chemist.
    1. Girls wanting to use the morning after pill as a regular contraceptive can simply go round different chemists to stock up. Many boyfriends are only too willing to pay. Some clinics are already selling the pill for £10.
    2. Colin Hart, continued:

      “It is reckless to legalise the sale of the morning after pill. Within days of chemists being given the go-ahead, under 16s showed they had no difficulty in buying it in London. There are serious issues of patient health. The Health Minister’s policy will send a powerful signal to young people that “unsafe sex is OK, just take a pill.”

      The House of Lords has the opportunity to quash the Minister’s proposal on Monday. I hope it does.”