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DUBLIN, February 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While a decision to make one brand of Morning After Pill (MAP) available over the counter in Ireland has been welcomed by pro-abortion lobbyists and “family planning” population control groups, pro-life advocates warn that the decision could have serious medical consequences.

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The decision by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) to approve the NorLevo brand of “emergency contraceptive” for sale without a prescription has been heavily criticized for “removing age barriers” and undermining the principle of parental consent.

Dr. Seán Ó Domhnaill of the Life Institute said that the IMB were acting hastily and irresponsibly and putting young people at risk.

“In the case of an emergency, parents will not even know that their children have taken this medication,” he said. “Parents of these children would be unaware, with potentially serious results, especially if there is bleeding involved.”

He warned that drug interactions are also an important concerns.  “Parents generally know that drug interactions are an important consideration, unlike young people who generally don’t realise the potentially lethal results of drug interactions. This is an irresponsible move by the IMB.”

Choice Ireland, one of the country’s leading abortion advocates, praised the decision as a means of “greatly increasing … women’s access to emergency contraception within the crucial time frame.” A spokesman for the Irish Family Planning Association, an affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation, said the decision meant that Ireland is now one of 18 European countries where the MAP is available over the counter.

The decision comes after months of legal wrangling with the Boots pharmacy chain, which declared recently it had found a legal loophole that would allow stores to sell the so-called “emergency contraception” over the counter, even though Irish law required it to be dispensed only with a doctor’s prescription. At the time, the IMB issued a statement saying that it interpreted the regulations to allow MAP to be dispensed “under the direction of a registered medical practitioner.” Boots said it took this to mean that its own in-house physician fulfilled this requirement.

Last week, however, the IMB specified that providing the morning-after pill over the counter under Boots’ doctor-driven protocol or “patient group directions” (PGDs) was unlawful. “There is no provision for PGDs in Irish legislation,” the IMB statement said.

However, at around the same time, the IMB also announced its decision to allow the one brand of MAP, NorLevo, to be provided without prescription.  Another common MAP, Levonelle, remains prescription only. Boots pharmacies, however, are still providing the latter drug over the counter according to their PGD protocol.

The IMB decision came as a surprise to the chain and to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the pharmacists’ regulator agency, which has created draft interim guidance for pharmacists. The guidance, posted to the Society’s website, says that pharmacists should be aware the age of legal consent in Ireland is 17 years, and that when a patient is under 16 “it is usual that parental consent is sought.”

“Having regard to the age and circumstances of the individual patient, and any child-protection issues arising, pharmacists should consider whether referral to a medical practitioner, other healthcare professional, or other agency or authority, is appropriate.”

The issue of underage reporting has come to the fore recently after sting operations by a pro-life group in the U.S. revealed that Planned Parenthood in that country routinely fails to report the sexual abuse of minors.

Dr. Ó Domhnaill added that lack of restrictions could lead to a significant shift in mindset where the morning-after-pill is seen as a “Monday morning remedy, like a hangover-cure.”

Katie Robinson of Youth Defence said the claim that easily availability of the morning-after-pill would lead to fewer “unwanted pregnancies” was false and unsubstantiated.

“According to a recent report by experts at the University of Nottingham, there were no beneficial effects from the UK government policy of making the morning-after-pill at pharmacies easily available.

“In fact, the report found that there was an overall increase of five percent in the rate of STIs among teenagers and they experts thought it likely that the policy was actually associated with a small increase in the number of teens falling pregnant,” she said.

“The MAP ruling simply allows pharmaceutical companies and their agents to make more cash while putting young women at risk,” she added.

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