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Morning-after pill free in Wales

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The morning-after pill can now be obtained free of charge at pharmacies across Wales.

Campaigners have hit out at the move that will see community pharmacists giving the emergency contraception to under-16s, if clinically appropriate.

The pill is free to women across the UK if prescribed by a GP or family planning clinic, but Wales is the first nation in the UK to offer it without charge on the high street - it still costs about £25 in the rest of the UK.

Parts of Wales have some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the UK and ministers believe the move will play a crucial role in reducing unwanted pregnancies.

Health minister Edwina Hart said she wanted professional advice available without appointment and “easily accessible within the 72-hour time span necessary for emergency contraception to be most effective”.

Family planning charity Marie Stopes International has welcomed the move.

Dr Paula Franklin, director of clinical development at Marie Stopes, said: “The decision by the Welsh Government to increase access to emergency contraception is an important step forward in preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions amongst women in Wales. We welcome all efforts to increase choice available to women for their sexual and reproductive health.

“There is a real need to provide people with information on all of the contraceptive options available to them as there is still a very high rate of unwanted pregnancies in all of the UK. Many people do not realise that there are 16 different types of contraception available to choose from, LARC or long-acting reversible contraception are the most effective forms of contraception available.”

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