British Government's move to push contraceptive jabs and implants, which can make girls infertile for up to three months, in a bid to bring down teenage pregnancies, has evoked a strong response from different quarters of the society.
While some are of the view that the contraception would instead increase sexual activity among the teenagers, and hence, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, others say that the jabs and implants might affect the young girls' reproductive health.
According to The Telegraph, under the Government plans to "urgently" bring down teenage pregnancy rates, girls as young as 13 will be pressed to have contraceptive jabs. Ministers have ordered council and health chief executives to increase the uptake of "long-acting" contraception in teen pregnancy "hot spots". The government also wants more school-based clinics to administer the jabs, which can make girls infertile for up to three months.
But, critics of the planned move warn that the controversial move will promote promiscuity and that injections and implants will not protect against the rampant spread of sexually transmitted disease. Some health experts also say that the drugs are unsuitable for girls who are still growing.
The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that 21 local authorities where teenage pregnancy rates have stagnated or risen have been singled out and told to push the injections and implants.
According to official figures for 2007/8, there are 1200 girls aged under 15 taking long-acting contraception, as well as 2900 15-year-olds and 11,500 girls aged 16 or 17.
Figures from five of England's 152 primary care trusts revealed that injections and implants have been given to girls as young as 13. Research carried out this year at drop-in services at 16 schools in Bristol found that two per cent of girls had been given the injections. The British Government wants to see a big increase in the uptake because it has identified failures by teenage girls to take the daily pill correctly as one reason for soaring under-age pregnancies in the UK, which has higher rates than anywhere in Europe.
But, some health experts oppose the move. Dr Hans Christian Raabe, a GP and medical coordinator of the Council for Health and Wholeness, a Christian organisation, said: "There are concerns that using them over long periods might have an impact on bone growth. The other issue is it gives an impression of safety that is not there. Girls will think 'Nothing can happen to me because I can't get pregnant.' But the rates of sexually transmitted diseases are frightening. There has been an explosion and yet young people are given a false sense of security. And will it work? I have not seen a single convincing study to show that the provision of contraception leads to a reduction in teenage pregnancy. What is needed is behavioural change."
Kevin Taylor, the father of Kizzy Neal, who got pregnant at 14, said despite what his family had gone through he would not have wanted his daughter to have the jab. "The biggest danger with Government instructing bodies to put more girls on contraceptive implants or injections is that they might become involved in encouragement, lessening the act of underage sexual activity even further," he said and added: "We, more than most families, are fully aware of the growing problem and would not wish these circumstances on any parent. There does seem to be a need for this kind of facility, but I think combined support from parents, teachers and health workers will have more of a positive impact in the end."
A nurse in Gateshead had caused outrage in 2005 when she revealed that she gave a contractive injection to a schoolgirl in the lavatories of a McDonald's restaurant.