Girls, 12, not to get free pills

ALEXIA JOHNSTON AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012

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South Canterbury 12-year-olds will not get free access to the morning after pill, despite the concept being considered in other parts of the country.

The morning after pill to prevent pregnancy could be made free to children as young as 12 in Taranaki next year.

Pharmacies are being targeted to provide the emergency contraceptive pill to Taranaki youth aged between 12 and 24 as part of the development of Taranaki's Taihoi (youth) health strategy.

However, South Canterbury District Health Board general manager for primary and community Fiona Pimm said it was unlikely the free service would be endorsed in South Canterbury.

She said "there were no plans at this stage" because there was "no evidence of a need".

Timaru hospital recorded 35 births for teenagers, up to 19 years, for the 2011-12 year.

Ages ranged from 16 to 19 years, with four mothers in Geraldine, four in Temuka, four in Waimate and 23 in Timaru.

The free morning after pill strategy was accepted by a Taranaki District Health Board sub-committee and will go to the board in February for final approval.

One serious area of concern addressed by the sub-committee is sexual health and the statistics Taranaki records. Teen pregnancy rates are high compared to the national average and abortions are double the national average.

The proportion of sexually transmitted infection cases reported in the 15 to 19-year-old age group has dropped over the past five years but increased for 20 to 24-year-olds.

District health board portfolio manager Jenny James said the teenage birth, termination of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates are higher than many other parts of the country.

Ways to combat those alarming statistics as set out in the strategy are providing the morning-after pill for free at pharmacies, reducing the costs of contraception at general practices and encouraging and educating youth about healthy sexuality.

Ms James said the results will speak for themselves, predicting a reduction in abortion rates in young people, a lower teen pregnancy rate and fewer cases of sexually transmitted diseases.

As part of the strategy several health and community agencies and organisations were approached, surveyed and involved in the changes being made.

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- The Timaru Herald

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