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A Licence to Spread STIs

    Yesterday the Telegraph reported that, for the first time, the morning after pill was to be given out free over the phone; that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service will encourage ‘women’ to stock up on the ‘emergency contraceptive over Christmas and the New Year’ - despite that girls would ‘not be completely honest about their age’. Andrew Lansley was reportedly fairly relaxed about all this.  ‘Not ideal, but…’ summed up his response.

    It’s times like this when I think our ruling classes have lost the plot altogether. They seem to have no idea what a moral compass is let alone where it should be pointing. For the BPAS have crossed a boundary - from doing what is responsible for children to doing what is abusive of them. They might as well say out loud “Go out, binge drink, have sex and won’t worry about the consequences.”  They have paid no attention at all to that precious ‘evidence’ we are constantly exhorted must inform policy.

    Because whatever anyone thought in the past the idea that the morning after pill protects young girls from unwanted pregnancy is now in tatters. A recent Cochrane Review says there is no evidence that it does. Earlier this year health economists from the University of Nottingham found that providing emergency contraception free to teenagers led to a rise in unwanted teen pregnancy. Its introduction reversed the previous 1999 - 2003 downward teen pregnancy trend.

    Hardly surprising too, at least to those of us who don’t work at the DoH, or one of its quangos, it found that emergency contraception (the euphemism for the Morning After Pill) led to an increase in teens’ risky sexual behaviour, ‘as sexual partners substitute the morning after pill for condoms’; also that STI (sexually transmitted infection) rates for teenagers and older women have gone up since their introduction.  And, guess what, they have risen fastest amongst teenagers - a 12 per cent hike in the under 16s.  Professor Paton, the author of this study, put it mildly when he said, “Our study illustrates how government interventions can sometimes lead to unfortunate unintended consequences”.

    Inevitably handing out the morning after pill condones and normalises under age sexuality activity. It leaves girls (or boys) with fewer ‘excuses’ to say no in face of peer group pressure. Since we now know (irrefutably) that it encourages the further spread of teen STIs it is astonishing that BPAS is not worried about communicating this. Chlamydia, the most prevalent of the STIs, leads to infertility after all.

    The STI chart and table on the Health Protection Agency website is enough to set alarm bells ringing. Nearly all have increased sharply between 2000 and 2009: 607% rise in syphilis, 71% rise in Chlamydia and herpes and a 38% rise in all new diagnoses across the board.

    Thanks to a PQ put by David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend, (Written Answer October 18th) the BPAS cannot be unaware of how many children and teens are affected (as well infected). In 2009 over 26,000 boys and girls between 10 and 18 were diagnosed with Chlamydia, 1,268 with gonorrhoea (three times as many girls as boys); there were 1,416 cases of genital herpes, 5,263 cases of genital warts and 4,151 other acute STIs.  Of the 38,244 in total a significant number were under 16.

    It does not make for pretty reading.

    Screening programmes are necessary and wise, but they are not enough. Labour’s ‘PC’ and irresponsible teen pregnancy and health ‘education’ strategy needs more than reviewing. It needs scrapping.  It has and is exposing children to greater, not lesser, health risk. The ‘informed choice’ approach has been tried and failed.  Now that science (of the development of the adolescent brain) is catching up with commonsense there is no more excuse for this nonsense. Children and adolescents need protecting. As Ray Lewis, Boris Johnson’s ‘Youth Mentor’, has pointed out many times: adults have ceded too much power to children and teens.

    It is easy for the liberally minded to sneer at ‘just say no’ programmes. No doubt telling a child that some behaviour is wrong, explaining the moral basis of the judgement, or setting out the raw facts about consequences is challenging for many of today’s parents. It is ironic though that while  ‘fear of the nanny state’ inhibits those in authority from taking a stand, it does not inhibit them from effectively putting morning after pills in our teenagers’ Christmas stockings. 

    Kathy Gyngell has a first class honours degree in social anthropology from Cambridge and an Oxford M.Phil. in sociology. She has worked for the former ITV companies, LWT and TV-am as a producer and senior programme executive. A full time mother after the birth of her second son, she founded the voluntary organization Full Time Mothers.

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