Morning-after pills don’t cut teen pregnancy according to a new study due to be published in the Journal of Health Economics. Furthermore it appears that they actually increase the risk of sexually transmitted disease.
These findings are the latest nails in the coffin of the Labour government’s teenage pregnancy strategy, dreamt up by the now defunct Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG) which was set up in 2000 to advise the government on how to cut teenage pregnancy.
Part of its strategy was to make morning-after pills free over the counter to teenagers.
The new research, by professors Sourafel Girma and David Paton of Nottingham University, compared areas of England where the scheme was introduced with others that declined to provide the morning-after pill free from chemists.
The academics found that rates of pregnancy among girls under 16 remained the same, but that rates of sexually transmitted infections increased by 12%.
Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe. In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, more than 7,500 girls in England and Wales became pregnant. Nearly two thirds of these pregnancies ended in abortion.
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases are also rising. In 2009 there were 12,000 more cases than the previous year, when 470,701 cases were reported. The number of infections in 16-to 19 year-olds seen at genito-urinary medicine clinics rose from 46,856 in 2003 to 58,133 in 2007.
Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, is reported in the Sunday Times as saying, ‘International research has consistently failed to find any evidence that emergency birth control schemes achieve a reduction in teenage conception and abortion rates. But now we have evidence showing that not only are such schemes failing to do any good, but they may in fact be doing harm.’
The phenomenon whereby applying a prevention measure results in an increase in the very thing it is trying to prevent is known as ‘risk compensation’.
The term has been applied to the fact that the wearing of seatbelts does not decrease the level of some forms of road traffic injuries since drivers are thereby encouraged to drive more recklessly.
In the same way it has been argued that making condoms readily available actually increases rather than decreases rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections because condoms encourage teenagers to take more sexual risks in the false belief that they will not suffer harm.
Whilst condoms offer some protection against sexually transmitted infections the morning-after pill offers none.
Last October it was announced that the TPIAG was one of 192 government quangos to be scrapped.
Not a moment too soon!