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The over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception has failed to reduce the number of people having an abortion, according to family planning experts.

Abortion rates have climbed from 11 per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44 in 1984 to 17.8 per 1,000 women in 2004, according to abortion statistics.

Professor Anna Glasier told the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that the abortion statistics do not reflect the idea that the abortion pill, commonly known as the morning-after pill, reduces abortion rates.

"Despite the clear increase in the use of emergency contraception, abortion rates have not fallen in the UK," the professor confirmed.

Her words have fuelled doubt over the effectiveness of the millions of pounds spent on educating Britain's young people about sexual health.

"If you are looking for an intervention that will reduce the number of people having an abortion, emergency contraception may not be the solution and perhaps you should concentrate most on encouraging people to use contraception before or during sex, not after it," she wrote.

However, the Family Planning Association (FPA) defended the role of emergency contraception, insisting that the abortion pill was never intended to replace other contraceptive methods and was an important method for women who had had unprotected sex or whose other contraception had failed.

"Emergency contraception is no substitute for correct, regular use of contraception," said Toni Belfield, a spokesperson for the FPA.

"It is not, and was never intended to be, a panacea for abortion."

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