On Thursday the 9th of Feb 2012 we heard the BBC Radio 4 debate with Conservative MP Nadine Dorries and Simon Blake, chief executive of the Brook Advisory Centre.
‘According to the NHS Confederation, 1,700 girls aged 13 to 14 around the country have had contraceptive implants and 800 others have received injections with the same effect, without their parents’ knowledge.
The claim is that it has helped to reduce teenage pregnancy levels, which are now at their lowest since the early 1980s.’
– BBC the Today show
Dorries put forward an argument that these girls are too young and that it’s wrong to give them the contraceptive implant or injection without their parents’ consent; parents have the right to know about their children’s sexual activity at such a young age, especially due to the possibility that these girls may experience side effects, for example weight gain or depression.
Simon Blake explained that the issue is more complex than simply whether or not parents have the right to be informed. Brook’s experience in this area has taught them that it is more important that young people can access emotional and practical support if they are having sex and that younger people who do have sex are sometimes those in vulnerable situations. He says that although the health professionals at Brook would encourage young people to talk to their parents’ about contraception – this is not always possible or the best thing to do. Health professional are already making decisions about contraception for under 16’s based on strict guidelines (the Fraser guidelines) which take into account consent and understanding as well as the risk of pregnancy.
This debate is interesting because, for once, Dorries and Brook are not arguing from completely opposing sides. They are both bringing up important points about access to contraception and advice as well as the effects that they can have on young people.
But perhaps what we should be asking is ‘what are the priorities here?’
Is it stopping teenage pregnancy? Is it making it easier for young people who are having sex to get support and advice? Is it making sure parents don’t have to worry about what their children are doing? Or, should we be asking about the side effects of these kinds of contraception?
After all, the contraceptive implant or injection are pretty serious medical interventions which we should know more about as they are now some of the main contraceptive methods offered by the NHS. They also don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections or diseases and can have negative impacts on our health, which is especially a problem when information and advice is not available. For more information on the different kinds of contraception available see
http://www.brook.org.uk/contraception/types-of-contraception or http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Contraception/Pages/Guidetocontraception.aspx. or of course