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LONDON - Tesco, Britain's largest supermarket chain, said Friday it will give teen-agers the morning-after contraceptive pill for free as part of a national effort to reduce the number of teen pregnancies, The Associated Press reports.
The pills will be distributed to those under 20 at its pharmacies in Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon, both in western England.
The local branch of the National Health Service and the North Somerset Teenage Pregnancy Clinic are both collaborating with Tesco on the pilot project, which will also give teens advice on contraception and sexual health.
"This is a small part of a range of initiatives we have developed to tackle teen-age pregnancy," Simon Bilous of the clinic told the British Broadcasting Corp. "All our work is in the context of encouraging young people to say 'no' if they do not want to have sex and only to engage in sexual activity if they feel ready for it."
Critics said the free pills would encourage teen-agers to have sex.
"Yet again we are seeing a decline in the moral standards of an organization which ought to know better," said Rachel Heath, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group Life. "To allow the morning-after pill to be dispensed free shows a lack of understanding of the moral health issues involved."
The morning-after pill is a high dose of birth control pill taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
It is already available free with a prescription, but many women do not want to wait for a doctor's appointment and buy it over the counter for a fee, according to the AP.