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Abbott wants clamp on morning-after pill

Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott is considering tightening access by young teenage girls to the controversial morning-after pill, following reports last month that the emergency contraception was being sold to very young girls.

"I am considering what the Government can do to try to ensure that it is only dispensed after suitable counselling," he told the West Australian.

The Australian Medical Association welcomed Mr Abbott's move to reconsider the availability of the drug to teenagers, saying only doctors could counsel them about issues such as under-age sex, contraception and sexually-transmitted infections.

Since 1 January, Australian women have been able to buy Postinor-2 over the counter from pharmacies without the need to see a doctor. While women's health groups applauded the decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, religious groups and the AMA opposed it.

Dr Brigid Vout of the Sydney Archdiocesan Life Office told the Rome-based Zenit news agency that abortion-inducing action of this drug is not widely known about or understood, and that current circumstances do not foster necessary education about the drug.

"It is extremely difficult for pharmacists working in a public and often busy workplace to adequately -- and confidentially -- counsel women about how this drug works," she said. "It is equally difficult for them to provide important information about its other side effects and health risks for women. This means that many more early human lives may be lost and that the physical and psychological well-being of women may be placed at risk."

Dr Vaut also mentioned that the Australian Medical Association has indicated its concern about the safety of the drug by issuing a statement saying that the making the morning-after pill available over the counter trivializes women's health.

Health Minister Abbott is currently facing questions on notice in Federal Parliament challenging the Government's knowledge of scientific evidence about the dangers of the drug.

The Australian Catholic bishops' Committee for Doctrine and Morals has recently released a statement reminding pharmacists that they are free to refuse to sell the product.

Dr Vout said it is important for Catholics to support health professionals choosing not to supply the morning-after pill.

"For many of them, this decision requires great courage and sacrifice," she told Zenit.

Abbott wants clamp on morning-after pill (The West Australian 8/6/04)
Australia's Dalliance With the Morning-After Pill (Zenit 4/6/04)

House of Representatives Notice Paper: Question on Notice to Health Minister Tony Abbott on Morning After Pill (2/6/04)
Sydney concern over lack of morning after pill counselling (1/6/04)
Cardinal calls for end to morning after pill for under-16s (The Herald 31/5/04)
Cardinal says rape does not justify morning after pill (CathNews 6/5/04)
Bishop Fisher calls morning after pill a "cop out" (CathNews 14/11/03)
Fact Sheet: Postinor-2 morning-after pill (Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations) | Alarm over approval for sales of Postinor-2 morning-after pill without prescription - 20 June 2003
Beware the health risks of an over-the-counter morning-after drug (Online Opinion)
New Emergency Contraception available (FPA Health)
Making Emergency Contraception Easier to Swallow (Family Planning WA)
Sex and the Holy City (ABC Radio Religion Report)
Sex and the Holy City (Transcript of BBC documentary)
Steady as she goes (Online Catholics 2/6/04)
Archdiocese of Sydney | Life Office

8 Jun 2004