AUCKLAND, NZ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Every girl in New Zealand will be put on long-acting reversible contraceptive drugs, delivered through implants or patches, before they become sexually active, if a group of health researchers at New Zealand's Otago University gets its way.
"I would imagine, off the top of my head, that it would happen a bit like vaccinations happen," Neil Pickering, a senior bioethics lecturer at the university, told Radio New Zealand report. “It would be a routine thing, and being done through schools would be an obvious way.”
Helen Paterson, of the University of Otago's department of women's and children's health, suggested that a contraceptive called Jadelle, which is a drug-laden plastic rod that is implanted into the girl's upper arm by a doctor, would be a good choice and should be available to the teens free of charge.
"What we want to do is make something that's universally available," Paterson said, "so that adolescents can easily access good care in terms of their contraception that's provided to them."
The Otago University group is aware that their suggestion is controversial, with Dr Pickering noting that he "would expect there to be a reaction against this because it's a fairly new suggestion that people perhaps haven't thought about previously.”
He added that "obviously” the girls' “parents and the children themselves would need to be informed that this is going to happen, and informed that they have the option not to take part if they don't wish to.”
"The idea of giving young people, teens, medication which you might say they don't need and can't benefit from," Pickering said, "all these things would no doubt come into people's minds and in addition to that people might have fears such as, 'Oh, won't that mean they'll start going out and having sex willy-nilly with everybody'."
The call for universal contraception for young girls has met with strong criticism from groups on opposite sides of the issue.
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Jackie Edmond, the director of "reproductive health" services provider Family Planning NZ said the proposal is “overkill” and goes further than necessary to reduce teen pregnancy, which is already declining.
"We're overkilling it, putting implants in people who aren't intending to or aren't having sex," Edmond told NZ Newswire.
Dave Ayling, clinical director of a youth health and counseling service in Palmerston North said, "Contraception is not a one-off task that involves sticking some rods in an arm." He warned that adverse effects of the drugs could pose a potential health risk that young girls are not prepared for.
"I also worry about ongoing costs associated with LARCs [long-acting reversible contraception] for managing potential side-effects that a lot will not be able to afford, so focusing on a sustainable equitable contraception service is more where the emphasis should go," Ayling said.
School guidance counselors are "horrified" at the idea of universal contraception, according to a report by Newstalk ZB.
"I think often it's hard enough for young women to say no to sexual advances, but if a lot of young men know that they're already on contraception, I wonder how that will be for them to actually say no," said Sarah Maindonald of the New Zealand Association of Counselors.
Pro-life group Family First NZ called the scheme a "flawed, morally bankrupt" approach that will do more harm than good.
“The decreasing proportion of teens wanting to be sexually active need parental involvement and good advice," said Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
"Contraception deals with unwanted pregnancy, but there’s no mention of the danger of sexually transmitted infections and increased sexual activity. Making it free and even more accessible is going to continue to alienate parents from the role they should be involved in. What we should be asking is, why are young teenagers becoming sexually active, what messages are teens receiving about sexual involvement, and what messages do parents actually want their children to receive,” McCoskrie said.
Noting that rates of teen abortions have fallen significantly recently, McCoskrie pointed out that "this has nothing to do with contraception, and everything to do with decreased sexual activity, and education, and awareness for teens on the actual consequences” of early sexual activity.
Family First NZ stresses that a U.S. study found increased access to emergency contraception actually increases the rates of sexually transmitted diseases, risk taking and a false sense of security while doing nothing to reduce the number of abortions, and that the side effects specific to Jadelle implants, which contain levonorgestrel, include irregular menstrual bleeding, application site reactions, dizziness, headache, vaginal discharge, breast pain, nausea, pelvic pain, urinary tract symptoms, vaginitis, and weight gain.
Levonorgestrel is also linked to increased risk of liver dysfunction and potentially deadly blood clots.
All LARCs potentially act as abortifacients, rather than contraceptives, as well.
“Teen girls deserve to be informed of the serious consequences of early sexual activity including the impact on emotional and mental welfare and academic performance, rather than given a false sense of security and being encouraged to take risks by adults who should know better,” Bob McCoskrie said.
He added that British researchers found that greater use of contraceptive implants and drugs had an almost statistically insignificant effect on teenage pregnancy rates.
“Ironically, getting a good education could be the best form of contraception for teenagers, according to a recent UK study.”