Extracts from 'The Morning-After Pill - Uncovering the Truth.'

1.2 The MAP in society

1.2.1 Why has the MAP become so important?
When the MAP was originally licensed in the UK during the 1980s, in the form known as Schering PC4, it was with reassurances that it would be used only in exceptional circumstances, only occasionally11 and that it would remain as a prescription-only drug, under the care and control of doctors.12  How things have changed!  Now, some 7% of women aged between 16 and 49 in Britain use the MAP at least once a year.  That is close to one million users – some take it regularly, many buy it over-the-counter at chemists, and some get it free at school.13

The MAP has now taken on a new and greater significance because it is currently regarded by the Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Unit as a major means of achieving its target, first published in 1999, to: “Halve the rate of conceptions among under 18 year olds in England by 2010; and set a firmly established downward trend in the conception rates for under 16s by 2010.” 14

The Government’s objective is clear: “Improving teenagers’ access to contraceptive advice, including emergency contraception, is a key strand of the Government’s teenage pregnancy strategy.” 15  And the Government’s thinking is equally clear: “Emergency contraception is a safe and effective method of preventing unplanned pregnancy.” 16

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in England and Wales, during 2004, there were over 42,000 conceptions among girls aged under 18.  Of these, 7,613 were under 16 years old, and 341 under 14.17  The rate of teenage conceptions of girls under 18 is about 42 per thousand girls, though the rate of teenage maternities falls to something like 23 per thousand girls because about 46 per cent of these pregnancies are terminated by abortion.18  Figures continue to show that the UK has the highest teenage birth rate in the EU.19

1.2.2 Sex education and the MAP
No responsible person could be other than alarmed at these statistics.  Many would question the wisdom and efficacy of the Government’s so-called cure for this huge crisis among our young people.  In June 2002 the Government re-emphasised its commitment to the provision of “full contraception and sexual health services” for secondary schools in England and Wales.20  Its strategy is based on more sex education, a wider availability of advice a greater access to contraceptives, especially free condoms,21 plus a more widespread use of the MAP.

But such a policy is doomed to failure.  It teaches girls and boys that pills and condoms will make sex safe, and so these children become not only sexually aware, and ‘sexually available’, but also sexually active.  And if they do not take the pill properly, or the condom bursts, or they use no contraceptive, then the MAP will come to their aid, and if that fails, then there is always abortion.

This is a counsel of despair.  The Government’s overall philosophy and action plan are both gravely mistaken.  Research published in 2002 studied the impact of access to family planning services on teenage conceptions and abortions in sixteen British regions over a period of fourteen years.  It found evidence that pregnancy rates actually went up when access to such services was increased: “They certainly don’t decrease, which is what the Government wants.  It seems family planning seems to encourage more people to have sex…” concluded David Paton, the author of the study.22

Over halfway through the Government’s 10-year national strategy, and more than £168m later, there should now be some evidence that it is working.23  The Government can point to a 1.4% fall in the under-18 conception rate between 2003 and 2004, but the current rate still stands at 41.7 per thousand girls.  Given that in 1998 the equivalent rate was 47.1, the small reduction still falls far short of its target for halving this rate by 2010, which would be 23.6 per thousand.24

Even the Teenage Pregnancy Unit’s Progress Report of 2005, had to admit that while the majority of local authorities were beginning to show some decrease in teenage pregnancies, around a fifth had bucked the trend and actually increased their pregnancy rates in girls under 18 25; they have increased by over a third in some parts of London.26  These are not good results – the Government’s current strategy is plainly not working.

Though overall the rate of under-18 conceptions has shown a slight decrease, the actual number of under-18 conceptions per year has remained static since 1999.27  As The Daily Telegraph reported: “Critics said the fall in pregnancy ‘rates’ – the number of pregnancies per thousand – could be attributed in part to an increasing population.” 28             

‘Conception’ figures in government statistics
‘Conceptions’ are defined by government statisticians as: “Conceptions leading to maternities or legal abortions – those which result in spontaneous miscarriage are not included.” 29  The figures simply add together the number of recorded births and the number of recorded abortions.

Therefore the definition of ‘conception’ used in government statistics does not include conceptions destroyed by the MAP at the age of a few days old – no-one knows what that figure is.30  Government ‘conception’ figures underestimate the real number of conceptions because they discount embryos which are miscarried, either naturally or because of the action of ‘contraceptives’ which act after fertilisation, such as the MAP.

In light of the current failure of the Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy there have been calls for the closure of the Teenage Pregnancy Unit. David Paton has said: “The taxpayers’ money spent by the Teenage Pregnancy Unit seems to have had no impact.  The Government should look closely at the Unit’s future.  Closing it should be seriously thought about … Most of the measures that have been introduced have had no effect on conception rates at all.” 31

The only strategy guaranteed to reduce teenage pregnancies must be based on chastity, or so-called ‘abstinence programmes’, but the Government and its policy advisers continue to reject such schemes (see pages 68-72).

11  ‘Morning-After Pill’, British Medical Journal, 288, January 1984, page 330
12  Rowlands, S, ‘Morning-After Pills’, British Medical Journal, 285, July 1982, pages 322-323; The Times,
    4 March 1983
13  Contraception and Sexual Health 2004/05, ONS, 2005, Table 3.7, pages 18-19; and Table 2, Mid-2004
     Population Estimates: Great Britain; Estimated Resident Population by Single Year of Age and Sex,
     ONS, December 2005, see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/ssdataset.asp?vlnk =9083&More=y
     as at 11 October 2006
14  Teenage Pregnancy, Social Exclusion Unit, June 1999, page 91
15  House of Commons, Hansard, 28 February 2001, col. 663 wa
16  House of Commons, Hansard, 23 January 2002, col. 965 wa
17  Health Statistics Quarterly, 29, Spring 2006, ONS, Table B, pages 54-55
18  Health Statistics Quarterly, 31, Autumn 2006, ONS, Table 4.1, page 69
19  Social Trends, 34, ONS, 2004, page 35; A League Table of Teenage Births in Rich Nations, Innocenti Report
     Card, Issue No. 3, July 2001, United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), pages 2 and 20
20  However, the Scottish Executive will not permit the morning-after pill to be distributed in Scottish schools
     – Scottish Parliament Official Report, 27 January 2005, col. 14026; Government Response to the First
    Annual Report of the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy
, Department of Health, June 2002,
    page 25
21  Ibid, pages 13-18, 24 and 29; Teenage Pregnancy Next Steps: Guidance for Local Authorities and Primary
     Care Trusts on Effective Delivery of Local Strategies
, Department for Education and Skills, July 2006, pages
     41-44; The Daily Telegraph, 6 September 2006
22  Paton, D, ‘The Economics of Family Planning and Underage Conceptions’, Journal of Health Economics,
    21, 2002, pages 207-225; The Times, 5 March 2002
23  Teenage Pregnancy Strategy Evaluation Final Report Synthesis 2005, London School of Hygiene and Tropical
     Medicine, page 57
24  Health Statistics Quarterly, 31, Autumn 2006, ONS, Table 4.1, page 69; Health Statistics Quarterly, 27,
     Autumn 2005, ONS, Table 4.1, page 41
25  Implementation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy: Progress Report, September 2005, Teenage Pregnancy
     Unit, page 8
26  Teenage Pregnancy Next Steps: Guidance for Local Authorities on Effective Delivery of Local Strategies, Op cit,
     pages 47-48, 52
27  Health Statistics Quarterly, 31, Autumn 2006, ONS, Table 4.1, page 69
28  The Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2006
29  Health Statistics Quarterly, 29, Spring 2006, ONS, page 54
30  See 1.4 ‘The Science of the MAP’ for evidence of the MAP’s mode of action, which can destroy embryos.
31  The Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2006

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