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January 08, 2000 02:25am
Pharmacies Dole Out Free 'Morning After' Pill
Source: Reuters

(LONDON) -- Pharmacies in the northwestern English city of Manchester have started issuing free 'morning after' contraceptive pills in a bid to tackle the city's high teenage pregnancy rates, British newspapers reported on Saturday.

Under the pilot scheme, launched on Christmas Eve, local women and girls under the official age of sexual consent (16) can obtain the pill free from some 16 high street chemists after a brief interview, the Times said.

Women must normally obtain a prescription from their doctor for the pill -- effective up to 72 hours after intercourse -- which is then dispensed by a chemist, usually at a cost.

Britain's Royal Pharmaceutical Society applauded the move.

"We welcome the Manchester scheme which allows women access to this safe and effective form of emergency contraception combined with expert pharmaceutical care and advice," society president Christine Glover told the tabloid Express.

But the scheme has angered family welfare groups, who said it would spread sexual illnesses, the paper added.

"It will be an excuse for people, especially boys, not to use contraception which will lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases," Valerie Riches of Family and Youth Concern told the Express.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged British parents to help cut back the nation's high teenage pregnancy rates and impose curfews on young children after two 12-year-olds in northern England were last year found to be pregnant.

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