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MAY 2015

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Access to EC increases STI rates


A new recent US study is the first to estimate the impact of making the morning-after pill available over the counter without prescription.  The study considered the impact on abortions and risky sexual behaviour as measured by sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates.


Dr Karen Mulligan, Associate Professor of economics and finance at Middle Tennessee State University, found that providing individuals with over-the-counter access to emergency contraception (EC) leads to increased STI rates and has no effect on abortion rates.


Moreover, risky sexual behaviour such as engaging in unprotected sex and number of sexual encounters increases as a result of over-the-counter access to EC.@


Mulligan’s analysis estimated that over the counter access increases STI rates by approximately 12% for women aged 15-44 and 9% for teenagers; these numbers are also consistent with the 12-17% increase in gonorrhoea rates found in Washington as a result of expanded access.  


She concluded that switching EC to over the counter status has three main effects on behaviour:

individuals are more likely to have sex,

they have a higher number of sexual encounters,

and are less likely to use condoms.


The results were almost identical to those of a British study published in the Journal of Health Economics@ in December 2010 and reported in the Daily Telegraph in January 2011.@


Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship comments, “Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe.  But international research has consistently failed to find any evidence that emergency birth control schemes achieve a reduction in teenage conception and abortion rates.


“Now there is growing evidence showing that not only are such schemes failing to do any good, but they may in fact be doing harm.


“Making the emergency contraceptive pill available over the counter free, without prescription, is sadly an ill-conceived knee-jerk response to Britain’s spiralling epidemic of unplanned pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted disease amongst teenagers. It is also not evidence-based.


“The best way to counter the epidemic of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease is to promote real behaviour change. The government would be well advised to enter into dialogue with leaders of communities in Britain where rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy are low, especially Christian faith communities, to learn about what actually works.”@