What we do
Campaigns & Events
Abortion in N. Ireland
"I need help..."
Make a Donation
Find us on Facebook
27 / 03 / 2009 - The morning-after text: Girls of 11 will be able to send school nurse a message asking for contraceptive pills
Girls as young as 11 will be able to ask for the morning-after pill by text message as part of plans to halt the rise in teenage pregnancies.
From July, girls at secondary schools will be able to text requests for emergency contraception if they have had unprotected sex, or if they fear condoms or other forms of protection have failed.
The scheme, in Oxfordshire, has been introduced after a jump of almost 10 per cent in the number of girls aged 18 and under getting pregnant in the county.
Girls at four schools in Oxford and two in Banbury will be able to use a new number to text a school nurse for advice on sexual health and contraception.
The nurse may then invite them in to their in-school office to collect a morning-after pill - or will point them in the direction of a local GP or primary care centre which will be able to provide one if the school is closed.
It is designed to make it easier for girls to get emergency contraception and advice even when school is closed.
The scheme, which could be copied by other areas of the country if successful, has been attacked by family campaigners who say it will encourage promiscuity and could lead to a further rise in the teenage pregnancy rate.
Latest figures show that 42,900 girls aged under 18 fell pregnant in 2007 - the highest in Western Europe.
Father John Saward, a priest at SS Gregory and Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Oxford said: 'I think it's horrendous. Presenting this as a programme will encourage promiscuity in children.'
And Norman Wells of charity Family and Youth Concern said: 'Oxfordshire PCT is sadly mistaken if it thinks a text service to help teenage girls get the morning-after pill through the school nurse seven days a week and 52 weeks a year will reduce the teenage pregnancy rate. School staff should be encouraging young people to respect and confide in their parents, not undermining them.'
Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley said: 'The morning-after pill should only be for emergencies, and certainly not so routine that schoolgirls can just text for it.
'This runs the risk of encouraging unprotected intercourse.'
But teenage mother Laura Cross, 18, from the Oxford suburb of Barton, said: 'I think it's a good idea. I know people who have fallen pregnant because they're too embarrassed to have the morning-after pill.
'If someone is embarrassed they would rather text than approach someone directly. Teenagers don't want to admit they are having sex because they are afraid their parents will find out.'
The service is being introduced jointly by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust after the number of teenage pregnancies in the county rose from 320 in 2006 to 350 in 2007.
Council chiefs refused to reveal which schools were involved as it might attract 'unhelpful attention'.
Over the past seven years, a total of 1,130 morning-after pills have been given to teenagers at the county's 14 Bodyzone clinics, confidential drop-in centres run by the PCT.
Oxfordshire PCT said child protection staff would become involved if any child aged between 11 and 13 asked for contraception.
Sarah Breton, lead officer for projects between the county council and Oxfordshire PCT, said: 'This will provide an extra level of contact for those young people who think they have taken a risk and don't want to approach a doctor or a pharmacist, but can text a health nurse and ask what they can do.
'Our commitment is to reduce the number of teenage conceptions in Oxfordshire so we're looking at the most effective ways of doing that.'
County councillor and mother-of-four Louise Chapman, cabinet member for children, young people and families, first fell pregnant when she was a teenager. She said: 'There's no intention on our part to undermine parents, and we would encourage young people to speak to their parents about their situation.
'The nurses are not just there to give out contraception willy-nilly. If you live in the real world this is happening and we'd be foolish to think there was something we could do to stop young people having sex.'
A spokeswoman for the PCT said: 'We haven't worked out the detail of the logistical process of how it will work. The scheme will not start until the summer.'
A spokesman for the Family Planning Association said: 'This text service is an innovative approach that should help young people access, not just emergency contraception, but also sexual health advice from trained health professionals.
'Providing young people with confidential and high quality contraceptive services is an important and effective part of the strategy to reduce teenage pregnancies.'
Source: Daniel Martin - DAILY MAIL