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13 March 2007

Tory MP calls for parental involvement law

Parents should be told if under-age girls are given advice on contraception or abortion, says Angela Watkinson.

Similar laws in the USA are said to have resulted in a 15 to 20% drop in abortion rates for minors, reports the BBC. Seven US states enforced parental involvement laws for abortion in 1984 - now more than 30 enforce them.

Mrs Watkinson said that the whole premise of sex education was wrong. ‘Very young children are bombarded with information about sex, information about contraception and then an assumption is made that they are going to make wise decisions with this information,’ she said. She said this was ‘quite illogical’, and said the decision to have an abortion was ‘far too serious… for a very young girl to reach on her own, or with the advice of a stranger.’

Noting a report that suggested 40% of UK children aged under 16 were sexually active, she said many girls were ‘lulled into a false sense of security’ by the emphasis on contraception - when in fact condoms often failed.

Mrs Watkinson will present her Contraception and Abortion (Parental Information) Bill to the Commons on 14 March 2007. It is a Ten Minute Rule Bill which means it is unlikely to become law, but Mrs Watkinson hopes it will publicise the issue more widely. She said she wanted parents to be informed of any advice on contraception and abortions - although they would not be allowed to impose their decision on the child. ‘I feel very strongly parents ought to be involved in these very serious life-changing decisions,’ she said.

At a press conference on 13 March, she was backed by Professor David Paton, of Nottingham University Business School, and Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP and senior tutor at St George’s, University of London, who argued that scrapping confidential advice for the under-16s would not lead more to have unprotected sex.

Professor David Paton pointed to the UK’s Gillick ruling of 1984, which banned the provision of contraceptives to under-16s without the parent’s involvement - but was overturned a year later. Visits to family planning clinics had dropped during that year, but the number of pregnancies among under 16s had remained stable, he said - something partly explained by fewer minors choosing to have sex. Putting aside the moral arguments about the parents’ right to know, the evidence was ‘very clear’ that the laws led to fewer abortions, pregnancies and possibly sexually transmitted diseases among teens, he said.

Dr Trevor Stammers said he believed sexual health was ‘rapidly declining’. He said many doctors had been ‘conditioned’ to act as providers of contraception, and some GPs were frightened of being sued if they did not provide the pill to minors. He said it was a ‘lie’ to tell youngsters that as long as they used a condom ‘you will be all right’ and said up to 80% of unplanned pregnancies were due to failed contraception. Dr Stammers also said that the proposed bill was ‘the only way forward if we really do mean business about improving the sexual health of young people’.

Teen abortion ‘right to know’ bid, BBC News, 13 March 2007

Also read:

Sue Axon case: Confidentiality guidance is lawful, confirms judge, Abortion Review, 25 January 2006