14 Dec 2012

Free morning after pill for young girls proposed

10:08 pm on 14 December 2012

The morning after pill could be made available free to girls as young as 12 in Taranaki pharmacies next year.

Taranaki teen birth rates are high at 34.2 per 1000 people compared with 27.4 nationally, while abortion rates are double the national average.

As part of its Taranaki Taiohi (youth) health strategy, Taranaki District Health Board wants to lower the rate of pregnancy and abortion in young girls by providing the emergency contraceptive pill free to people aged 12 to 24 at pharmacies.

The strategy has been approved by a sub-committee and will go to the board for final approval in February.

DHB spokesperson Sandra Boardman says pharmacists are well-trained to provide the emergency contraceptive and rural areas such as Waverly and Patea are the only place where people in this age group can access it.

However GP Keith Thomas Blayney, who has a surgery in Hawera, says although he believes providing the pill for free is a good idea, pharmacists are not properly trained to give the support and care needed.

Dr Blayney said the strategy is too fragmented in its approach.

Ministry of Health statistics show 20% of New Zealanders have had sexual intercourse by the age of 13 and 54% by 17.

Family Planning executive director Jackie Edmond says it supports the move, as the $40 cost can stop young people from getting the pill.