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Debate: Contraception prescriptions for under-aged girls

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Should doctors be allowed to prescribe contraception for girls under the age of 16?

Background and context

Currently in the UK, doctors are restricted by the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse when prescribing contraception. The principle is very simple: since it is illegal for girls to have intercourse before the age of 16, a doctor prescribing contraception for under-age girls is promoting an illegal act and can be brought to court. The status quo at present allows a doctor to prescribe contraception to an underage girl if certain criteria are satisfied: e.g. if she will have sexual intercourse regardless, but the doctor is still accountable for his actions according to the law.

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Condoning sex? Is it wrong to presume that the provision of contraceptives to underage women will condone and encourage their sexual activity?

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Yes

To presume that girls, or young people in general will be prevented from experimenting with sex if they are denied contraception is ludicrous: 38% of girls do have intercourse before the age of 16. The rate of teenage pregnancies in Britain is the highest in Europe and an ever-increasing problem for the Government to tackle. Reducing access to contraception in this way only antagonises the problem, and will certainly not dissuade a teenager from having sex.

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No

The government cannot allow for the provision of condoms to youths, such that it implicitly condones breaking the law: Providing contraception to under-age individuals is a first principles case whereby the NHS cannot condone breaking the law. If it is illegal for an under age girl to have sex, then it is illegal to actively contribute or abet her in this activity. Prescribing contraception is tantamount to encouraging such behaviour, since in theory provides the girl with a “safe” method of breaking the law.

By effectively condoning sex through the provision of contraception, we condone further sexual activity and risks: Contraception is not always effective, and can result in unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

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Safety and health: Is it an imperative health precaution to provide sexually active children with contraceptives?

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Yes

It is imperative to provide sexually active underage women with contraception, because they are most likely to be promiscuous: Underage women having their first sexual intercourse under the age of 16 are unlikely to be in a stable relationship. While still for the most part in need of parenting themselves they are least likely to be realistic about the consequences of becoming pregnant. Should they seek contraception in this way, surely we can at least offer protection and advice at this stage to prevent unwanted pregnancies or the risk of STD’s.




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No

The issue of the health of the girl must also be considered: We are yet unsure of the potential harmful effects of the contraceptive pill in women. Is it not irresponsible to prescribe this to young girls who are still experiencing puberty before we are fully aware of the dangers?




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Sex education issues: Could allowing the prescription of contraceptives provide an opportunity to educate on sex?

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Yes

Providing contraceptives to sexually active children provides an opportunity to educate: Furthermore, this is an ideal opportunity to educate and inform young women about sexual health. Contraception is merely a part of the wider sex education taught in schools, and the role of the doctor is yet another facet of this. What’s more, this forum is available at the exact time when the girl is considering the issues on a personal level.

"Children" should not be expected to abruptly change their attitudes and behaviour toward sex and contraception-use at the turn of their 16th birthday. They should be allowed to make an informed and independent choice. Girls mature at different ages and experience different situations; to state an age for consensual sex may be considered arbitrary, but to prevent her from access to safe sex is simply counter productive.



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No

Legalising the prescription of contraception will not prevent the problem of teenage pregnancy: This is not due to a lack of prescribed contraception, but to other factors such as inadequate sex education, a lower age of sexual maturity, etc. Young girls are far more likely to use condoms and preventative methods of contraception (which they can obtain elsewhere) than seek the contraceptive pill which must be prescribed.



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Doctor/Parent role: Should doctors be given the right of judgment on these matters?

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Yes

The role of the doctor incorporates a responsibility to his/her patient. Whilst the British Medical Association allows a doctor to work within certain criteria the doctor can still be prosecuted by the girl’s parents. In addition, it is contradictory to afford the doctor the right to judgement of their patient’s best interests and yet deny them the right to prescribe a precautionary safe measure for their health.



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No

The role of sex education and provision of a moral framework is the responsibility of the parents. It is not the role of the state. Children already have to assess the barrage of sexual images in the media and deal with a variety of difficult decisions regarding relationships and sexual issues; to contradict the law in this way provides yet another subject of confusion.




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