Pill for tweens 'better than . . . a baby'
New Plymouth is split down the middle as to whether girls as young as 12 should be given free access to the "morning after" pill.
Fifty per cent of people surveyed on the street yesterday thought the free pills were a necessary service while the other half thought it would only serve to encourage underage sex.
The Taranaki District Health Board sub-committee this week approved a health strategy that would see the emergency contraceptive pill provided free at pharmacies, the cost of contraception at general practices reduced and a push on educating youth about healthy sexuality.
The strategy is intended to address Taranaki's high teen pregnancy and abortion rates.
Half of those surveyed were reluctant to accept pre-teens were having sex but said if that was the reality then they should have access to protection.
"That's outrageous. It's kind of like saying it's all right to do but then it's better to stop it happening I guess," Seth Marshall said.
"They're starting pretty young these days, I suppose they should," Bruce Wallace said.
"I reckon that would be good. It would stop things from happening you don't want," Anne Sophie Issah said.
Erica O'Riordan said she was shocked 12-year-olds might be having sex, but preventing pregnancy was more important.
"If children are engaged, then it's only right they should have access to protection. We must protect our children."
Others said the free service just encouraged an irresponsible attitude.
"They shouldn't be having sex at that age. That's not right," Ngawai Tanner said.
Alexander Thompson said as a Christian he was against all sorts of abortion, which included the emergency contraceptive pill.
Carol O'Neill said handing out the free pills was a cop out and youth needed to learn how to abstain.
Voice for Life president Bernard Moran said ongoing use of the emergency contraceptive pill could cause long-term fertility problems.
"It's playing Russian roulette with your future fertility."
He said accessibility would lead to youth using the morning after pill as an alternative to condoms. "You get teens taking it on a regular basis when doctors recommend it should be taken once a year.
"It gets used as a method of contraception when it is a form of abortion."
The story has generated 19 comments on the Taranaki Daily News Facebook page.
"while i dont think its great to offer it at 12 - its a whole lot better than a 12 year old having a baby. though i hope if they come for it theyre given a discussion on birth control and how to prevent requiring the morning after pill," Andrea Russell said.
"If they are dumb enough to be having sex, are they going to be smart enough to use a condom or go to the chemist to get the morning after pill!" Nicky Lloyd said.
MidCentral District Health Board has offered free emergency contraceptive pills to women under 25 for the last four years. Spokesman Dennis Emery said the service relied on pharmacies having accredited pharmacists on site who gave out information about sexual health and 12 condoms to women seeking the ECP.
The average age of women seeking the ECP in the Manawatu was 18-19, and the youngest girl to receive the pill was 13.
Taranaki Daily News