A decade ago public health experts and frontline health
professionals convinced the UK government that easy (free, over the counter) access
to the morning after pill would bring down the country’s record rates of
teenage pregnancy. It hasn’t, but it has helped to increase sexually
transmitted infections among teens.

Those are the findings of two economists at the University
of Nottingham University Business School, published
in the Journal of Health Economics recently. Professors David Paton and
Sourafel Girma used data from the Office of National Statistics and the Health
Protection Agency for the years 1998 to 2004 to test the assumptions of the
government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy — in particular, pharmacy “emergency
birth control” (EBC) schemes. The results of the study?

It found that the EBC schemes had no effect in reducing teenage conception
rates and even some evidence that pointed to a small increase in the number of
pregnancies.

The presence of an EBC scheme in a local health authority was linked to a
five per cent increase in STIs in the under-18 age group and a 12 per cent hike
in under-16s.

And the researchers warn that the STI figures are only for
those diagnosed at clinics, rather than the total number of infections, which
in some cases can be asymptomatic. Professor Paton notes the sad, but by now
familiar truth:

“Our study illustrates how government interventions can
sometimes lead to unfortunate unintended consequences. The fact that STI
diagnoses increased in areas with EBC schemes will raise questions over whether
these schemes represent the best use of public money.”

“Unfortunate unintended consequences” will, of course,
undermine any scheme that takes teenage sexual activity for granted and cares
nothing for the moral and psychological damage it is doing young people even
before the social cost is counted.

Thanks to Family First New Zealand for this tip.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet