By Christine Lavelle
THE Catholic Church says abortion is now being used as an alternative method of contraception among the nation’s school girls.
The warning comes after it was revealed that 71 girls living in the Lothians region aged 15 or under had terminations last year.
The number has reached a five year high, and both the underage pregnancy and abortion rates have risen since the previous year.
While local health chiefs said they are working hard to get the figure down, the revelation has received criticism from the Catholic Church in Scotland.
Spokesman Peter Kennedy said: “The statistics are further evidence of the chronic failure of almost two decades of misguided sexual health strategies in the Lothians.
“The reality is abortion has simply become a form of contraception and the fact that a human life is taken is completely ignored by the providers.”
The statistics were released by Information Services Division Scotland and also show 567 pregnancies in those aged 16 and 17 in the region during 2009.
Scotland’s youngest ever mum, from Livingston, fell pregnant when she was 11 and both she and the baby were taken into care after the mother went on drinking binges often lasting days.
Jamie Megaw, strategic programme manager for the NHS Lothian said: “We’re doing a great deal of work among young people to promote responsible relationships and to ensure that our services are readily accessible.
“This includes working closely with organizations supporting young people to encourage and enable them to make positive and informed choices about sexual health issues.”
However, while health agencies are looking for ways to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate, the Lothians are still doing better than counterpart health board areas like Glasgow, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Tayside.
A new sexual health centre is to open this year in Edinburgh, with the hope it will increase awareness about underage and unwanted pregnancy.
When it opens, the centre will be a hub for contraception advice and sexual health testing.