(Right click and choose 'save as...' to download a printable version of this article)
Review by Peter Saunders
CMF Chief Executive
School nurses have given implants or jabs to girls aged between 13 and 16 more than 900 times in the past two years. (1) Girls aged 13 have been given contraceptive jabs and implants on more than 20 occasions and a further 7,400 girls aged 15 and under have been given contraceptive injections or implants at family planning clinics.
The implants are effective for up to three years and the injections for up to three months. Under patient confidentiality rules, nurses are prevented from seeking the permission of parents beforehand, or even informing them afterwards, without the pupil's permission.
Sex under 16 is not only illegal, it can also be profoundly damaging – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Children under 16 are judged to be too emotionally immature to drink in a pub, drive, vote or watch certain films, and parental consent is required for any other medical or surgical procedures. Why then is this issue being treated so differently especially when contraceptive implants pose health risks? Young people who feel that they are secure and protected by contraception will take more risks sexually, a phenomenon known as 'risk compensation' (2) and the claim that this strategy will decrease pregnancy rates in a given population is not actually evidence-based. By contrast, there is real evidence that making the morning-after pill more widely available does not reduce unplanned pregnancy rates in a population and may actually increase the incidence of sexually transmitted infections. (3)
Contraceptive implants or jabs also offer no protection against sexual exploitation. If a young teenage girl is in an abusive relationship or has pressure put on her to have sex then she can be very easily manipulated especially if she is emotionally involved with the boy or man who is trying to coerce her. The fact that she is taking contraception may well intensify that pressure and make it harder for her to say no. It is ironic that this story broke around the time of the Jimmy Savile enquiry.
Contraceptive provision alone will never address Britain's epidemic of promiscuity and its consequences. More needs to be done to dissuade young people from having sex and promoting abstinence as a good lifestyle choice. By contrast the government's strategy for sexual health seems to be based on the two false premises that contraceptives are safe and that abstinence is impossible.
There are ethnic and faith communities in the UK – including Christian communities – which have relatively low levels of promiscuity and accordingly very low levels of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, divorce and broken relationships. The government would do better to learn from them and base their strategies on godly wisdom rather than an untested worldly ideology.