Doctors sterilise up to 400 teenage girls



Jun 3, 2003
GIRLS as young as 14 are being sterilised for years by doctors without their parents’ consent as part of a bid to cut teenage pregnancy rates.

Contraceptive rods about one-and-a-half inches long have been surgically implanted into approximately 400 girls under the age of 16, according to new government figures.

These gradually release a synthetic hormone that stops the production of eggs for up to three years. The government also said that thousands of injections had been given to under-16s to make them infertile for three months.

It is hoped the drug will help cut the number of teenage pregnancies in Britain, which has the highest rate in western Europe.

However, family campaigners and the Conservatives voiced fears that use of the contraceptive, called Implanon, would encourage promiscuity and lead to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases. Concerns have also been expressed about the long-term use of artificial hormones at a time of major hormonal change.

The figures were revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question put by the Conservatives in the Commons.

David Davidson, the Tory health spokesman in the Scottish Parliament, acknowledged teenage pregnancy was "obviously a growing problem" but said handing out contraceptives was the wrong answer. "I’m totally against the idea that under-age children should be able to receive a morning-after pill, contraception or an abortion without the parents being informed.

"It’s about time we educated our young children to take responsibility and understand they take tremendous risks when they take part in sexual activity. Casual sex, particularly with under-age drinking, is leading to a huge explosion in the transfer of diseases, not to mention pregnancy."

He said current sex education was simply a "how-to" guide rather than a programme teaching "responsibility and respect for each other".

"It’s a cultural change we need. That’s why we cannot cut their parents out of the loop," Mr Davidson said.

Guidance from the General Medical Council states that GPs must only consider whether their under-age patient is "capable to decide" on the form of treatment. This follows the Victoria Gillick case in the 1980s. Gillick lost a High Court action in which she tried to stop doctors from prescribing contraception to those under 16 without parental approval.

Dr Trevor Stammers, of the Family Education Trust, said: "I do not believe a doctor who does this to an under-16-year-old girl without her parents’ knowledge is acting in an ethically acceptable way.

"Doctors are giving carte blanche to me to have sex with under-age girls."

Dr Anne Szarewski, of the family planning organisation, the Margaret Pyke Centre, said implants and injections were popular with girls who wanted to hide the fact they were sexually active from their parents.

Implanon is put under the skin of the arm. Its effect can last for up to three years and it has similar side effects to the pill.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive was unable to comment on the extent of Implanon’s use in Scotland, but said the Executive was currently considering a sexual health strategy to address teenage pregnancy rates.

A spokeswoman for the Westminster government’s teenage pregnancy unit said the decision on contraception was for the individual to make.
Top Bottom