Contraception (Under-age Girls)

Prayers – in the House of Commons at 9:35 am on 28th October 1983.

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Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point 9:35 am, 28th October 1983

I have the honour to beg leave to present to the House a petition signed by over 800 of my constituents in Castle Point, and 14 similar petitions addressed to right hon. and hon. Members, which, for the convenience of the House, I have been asked to present on their behalf. These petitions are from the constituencies of Altrincham and Sale; Aylesbury; Birmingham, Yardley; Cardiff, Central; Croydon, North-East; Edinburgh, East; Kingston upon Hull, East; Bedfordshire, North; Hampshire, North-West; Ravensbourne; Shoreham; Sutton and Cheam; Warwick and Leamington; and Wirral, South. In addition, the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) has asked me to associate his name with the petition. Over 5,000 of his constituents have signed a petition, and I understand that other petitions—perhaps a great many—of a similar nature will be submitted over the next few days.

The petitioners rightly draw our attention to their justifiable opposition to the Revised Health Service Notice (Section G) issued by the Department of Health and Social Security in 1980, which advises doctors that they may provide contraceptive drugs or devices to girls under the age of consent without their parents being consulted. This practice goes on despite the fact that it is unlawful in this country for any male to have sexual intercourse with a girl who is under 16 years of age.

It is widely known that young girls who have sexual intercourse are at risk of developing cervical cancer and contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, because of the powerful hormone content of the drugs prescribed, they are at substantial risk of permanent physical damage being caused to their bodies which are, as yet, immature. Furthermore, it is well documented that children are not very good at administering a drug on a regular daily basis. The contraceptive failure rate among teenagers is extremely high. According to Dr. Judith Bury of the Edinburgh Brook advisory centre: There is overwhelming evidence that, contrary to what you might expect. the availability of contraceptives leads to an increase in the abortion rate. If this practice is allowed to continue, we are failing miserably to fulfil our responsibility towards these young girls by putting at risk their physical, mental, moral and spiritual health. What is more, we are encouraging them to be promiscuous and to participate in what is, after all, an unlawful act.

The petition concludes: Wherefore your Petitioners pray that the Honourable Members of the House of Commons should bear in mind, that according to Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by Society and the State." We ask that they should therefore urge the Home Secretary that he should recommend to the House that parents must be given statutory rights to be consulted before any contraceptive drugs or devices be given to their daughters whilst they are under 16; thus enabling parents to take whatever actions they think necessary to protect their daughters from early and unlawful sexual relationships, and the criminal actions of the males involved.

To lie upon the Table.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon 9:39 am, 28th October 1983

I beg leave, Mr. Speaker, to present a petition similar to that presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) which has been signed by a considerable number of my constituents in Basildon who wish to oppose the 1980 Revised Health Service Notice (Section G) of the Department of Health and Social Security which advises doctors that they may provide contraceptive drugs or devices to girls under the age of consent without their parents being consulted.

To lie upon the Table.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 9:40 am, 28th October 1983

I beg leave to present a petition in the name of Dr. Sheelagh O'Hara and some 300 other members of my constituency, some of whom worship at Ealing abbey and other churches and some of whom are not churchgoers.

I associate myself with the remarks of my two hon. Friends who have presented similar petitions this morning, and share their anxiety, as do my constituents, about the guidelines issued to doctors recently for the prescription of oral contraceptives to girls under the age of 16. The country is concerned about the matter, so are my constituents, and so am I. I beg leave to present my petition.

To lie upon the Table.