NOTTINGHAM, UK, January 31. 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A new study on the impact of the UK government’s scheme to hand out free emergency contraception to teenagers as young as sixteen has found that the plan not only has not reduced teen pregnancy rates, but has led to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.

The study of the government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, titled “The Impact of Emergency Birth Control on Teen Pregnancy and STIs,” compared areas of England where the morning-after pill was available to teens free of charge at pharmacies, with areas where the plan had not yet been introduced.

The researchers found that pregnancy rates for girls under 16 remained the same in both areas, while the rates of sexually transmitted diseases increased by 12 percent in those areas where the pill was made freely available.

Professor Paton told the Telegraph, “We find that offering the morning-after pill free of charge didn’t have the intended effect of cutting teenage pregnancies but did have the unfortunate side of effect of increasing sexually transmitted infections.

“By focusing on sexually transmitted infections, it allows us to test whether there is an impact on sexual risk-taking, and that seems to be the implication. Almost certainly young people are having more unprotected sex,” he added

According to government statistics, the UK has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Western Europe, while sexually transmitted diseases in teens under sixteen have risen 58 percent within the past 5 years.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, told the Daily Mail, “International research has consistently failed to find any evidence that emergency birth control schemes achieve a reduction in teenage conception and abortion rates.

“But now we have evidence showing that not only are such schemes failing to do any good, but they may in fact be doing harm,” Wells said.

An abstract of the study by Professors Girma and Paton, soon to be published in the Journal of Health Economics, is available here.