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Condom use does not lower teenage pregnancies

According to John Richens, a clinical specialist in sexually transmitted infections and HIV at University College, London, a national sexual health strategy is "a matter of urgency" (The Sunday Times, November 29). Among the reasons for the urgency, Dr Richens was reported to have said that he was "concerned about soaring teenage pregnancies and the lack of proper sex education".

What Dr Richens has omitted to mention is that the reason Malta registered these teenage pregnancies is because, unlike in other nations, including his country, the UK, abortion is illegal in Malta - which distorts the true pregnancy rate.

What is remarkable is that teenage pregnancies are so high in the UK that it has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.

Although free condoms are handed out in schools to teenagers, pregnancies in England and Wales have risen to their highest level since 2002.

The UK Health Department were congratulating themselves after figures from the Office of National Statistics showed teenage pregnancy rates falling slightly with a reduction in both the under-18 and the under-16 rates during 2006.

Only a year later, however, data showed there were 41.9 conceptions per 1,000 in 15- to 17-year-olds in 2007 - up from 40.9 per 1,000 the year before. It is estimated that there were just over 42,900 conceptions in under-18s in the UK in 2007 and an increase in under-16 conception rates from 7.8 per 1,000 to 8.3, a total of 8,200 pregnancies.

Evidence shows that contraception is leading to more abortions: 1,609 of 4,666 women (34.5 per cent) obtained abortions at the Leeds Marie Stopes International abortion clinic due to condom failure; 27 per cent of the abortions performed at Paris' St Louis Hospital are carried out because of condom failure (NSO France).

In a 1996 study of students requesting "emergency contraception"at the Rusholme Health Centre in Manchester, 68 per cent claimed condom failure (UK Unistat).

When US surgeon general Joycelyn Elders was Arkansas health director from 1987 to 1992, she pushed condoms by every means possible, including in 24 high schools. The results were predictable.

The teen pregnancy rate in Arkansas rose by 17 per cent between 1989 and 1992, the syphilis rate among teenagers rose by 130 per cent, and the HIV rate increased by 150 per cent (Lifeissues 2007)

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