Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 11:20 GMT
Morning-after pill: Should parents be told?

Schools are being allowed to dispense the morning-after pill to underage pupils without their parents' knowledge, newspaper reports say.

Health authorities are said to have agreed to give the powerful contraceptive to state-school pupils in an attempt to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies.

Medical confidentiality rules mean that while a parent can be told if the school's policy is to do this, he or she cannot be told if their own child has received the morning-after pill.

Should parents be given this information? Or will the lack of confidentiality hinder children taking the pill?


Parents raise their children and have a right to know what their children are doing at school. Schools are paid for by the government, which is paid by tax dollars, which come from working parents, who send their children to these institutions to receive an education. Whatever your stance on abortion, the fact that parents would be denied the right by their own government, which they pay for in the first place, to know about what goes on in their child's school is quite scary. You allow your state institution to decide what you can and cannot know about your own family. My, how freedom has been eroded!
Ryan Corcoran, United States

Once again we see parental authority being undermined

Jennifer, UK
In response to Ben's comments: the morning-after pill as a "progressive policy" to combat teenage pregnancies? It's anything but! This pill is a dangerous and powerful drug but unfortunately it is all too easy for the male population to see the benefits of it. Handing out the morning-after pill at school and making it so accessible to teenagers (many well below the age of consent) is making under-age sex even more "trendy" and irresponsible as now teachers are there to pick up the pieces and "undo" the mess the children have made. No longer is there fear of an unplanned pregnancy to deter the youngsters from having under-age sex. Would it not be better if the government developed a strategy within sex education to destroy the "cool" aspect of having sex whilst barely out of primary school?

Once again we see parental authority being undermined. But if the schools are to be responsible for the nation's youth, why not dish out condoms on Friday, instead of the morning-after pill on Monday. Prevention has always been better than cure. Young people now have no example of thinking BEFORE you act, and not afterwards.
Jennifer, UK

Handing out abortion pills to young vulnerable children, without informing their parents or even their GP is little more than child abuse, and a complete abdication of moral responsibility. It amounts to state encouragement to under-age girls to have unprotected sex - with all the moral, emotional and healthcare problems this implies.
Nicholas Beale, UK

Are parents in the UK required to sign a consent form before a child receives medical care? If so, there's your answer to whether they should know about their child being given the pill. I'm just waiting for one of these pills to kill an unknowing parent's kid, and then for the gargantuan lawsuit that follows.
Vic, USA

At 21, I've been surprised over the years at how kids from loving and supportive families still go seriously off the rails. This shows that it's hard enough already for parents to protect their children from the sex and drug-crazed media messages. Schools should not be allowed to withhold this information from parents. If children want to be sneaky, they should face their GP or the all-hallowed family planning clinics. Kids aren't stupid- they know that sex leads to babies - so we shouldn't insult their intelligence by relieving them of their responsibility to make their own decisions through civilised channels. Schools aren't even allowed to dish out paracetamol, so I reckon this may never come about.

We mollycoddle kids by providing free this and that for family planning (family?) but we expect them to pay for their own cinema tickets, mobile phones and other forms of entertainment.
Ruth, UK

It would be interesting to see how a court would deal with a parental challenge

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
The core problem, I assume, is combating teenage pregnancy - this may well be an innovative, and bold, way of addressing this difficult issue. But if it were my teenager daughter (thank goodness I have boys!) who was being prescribed this kind of drug to mitigate and support a lifestyle I was unaware of - I'm torn between "more fool me" and "I have a right to know". It would be interesting to see how a court would deal with a parental challenge - a "teenager" is, after all, a minor.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

It's a tough question, and there's no right answer. Personally I believe that they should be given out without parents' knowledge if that will stop an unwanted pregnancy. We have far too many unwanted children in this country, and this brings misery to them and their families alike.

Perhaps when dispensing the M.A.P the schools could compel the girls to attend a lecture on safe sex/birth control, then give them some free condoms - an infinitely more sensible idea than taking a pill after exposing yourself to infection.
Daniel White, UK

Please could someone explain the logic of the situation to me where if my daughter has a bad headache in school, no one would dare give her a paracetamol. If she falls over and cuts herself and is given a plaster, a note comes home to keep me informed of what's happened. But if she asks for a morning-after pill, even though she is under age, she will be given it with no reference to me, or to her GP. I can't help feeling we are building a world, were political correctness and narrow unproven dogma overrides common sense, and rational thought.
Pete Cook, UK

Of course they should be told. Otherwise, how will they know who to sue if their daughter suffers a serious adverse reaction to these powerful drugs?
Dave, UK

I would have much rather seen someone who I knew and trusted than a complete stranger

Samantha, England
Isn't it better that a young girl can turn to someone they know and see regularly when it comes to taking the morning-after pill. The one time that I needed to take the morning-after pill, I was 15 and was humiliated and made to feel cheap by the prescribing doctor at the local hospital. I would have much rather seen someone who I knew and trusted than a complete stranger. Most of the time, teenagers having under-age sex do not go to their parents as they do not have the sort of relationship where they feel that they can talk about anything to either parent.
Samantha, England

I feel that parents have a right to be informed as long as their child is below the statutory legal age.
The job of a parent is to provide adequate guidance to their child especially so, in this time and age where propagation of sex is rampant everywhere.
Young people should be taught to be responsible for their actions and dispensing morning after pills does not get to the root of the problem in stemming the rise in teenage pregnancies.
Claudia Goh, Singapore

In view of the fact that the pressures from the media and the lack of parental guidance contribute to under age girls having sex. I think the authorities have taken a very responsible line. A single girl of any age is denying her baby the chance of a natural upbringing and a baby born to a girl who herself not mature is even worse. Anything which reduces the number of Britain's "gymslip" mums must be good. The question still remains though "why has Britain the highest incidence of underage and single girl pregnancies in Europe?".
John, France

There certainly are limits to parental responsibility or authority

N. Misoulis, Britain
Good law indeed, but not enough; from the views posted on this very talking point it's evident that some people believe otherwise. What if some of them are teachers, or children's advisers? What if they report to the parent, breaking the law? We must make sure that this will never happen. The argument "the parent is the one responsible and therefore must know" is simply ridiculous; if we extend it a bit then the parents should have the right to decide whether their children will go to school or not, or they should even be free to beat or abuse their children, because "it's their responsibility"; there certainly are limits to parental responsibility or authority, and the pill is definitely beyond them.
N. Misoulis, Britain

I think that the morning after pill should not be available from anyone except a doctor. I am 19 and have been stupid enough to have to take the pill before, but the doctor provides a lot of additional information and talks to you about it making you realise and think twice about being irresponsible again! Making the morning after pill more widely available is encouraging young people to have sex at a younger age and not to use contraception.

This is not an issue of contraception. The morning after pill procures an abortion, which is a much more serious issue. The state is riding roughshod over the consciences and responsibilities of parents, furtively going behind their backs. To what limit are we going to go to "protect" teenagers from their irresponsibility. Pregnant teenage girls have already made their decision, and I simply do not believe the majority do not have enough information and need more education. This policy is "educating" children to go behind their parents' backs, at the same time giving out the message that you don't have to live with the consequences of your actions.
Ken Beach, Germany

Explore the responsibilities that are inevitable on entering a sexual relationship

Jane-Claire McCall, Scotland
The Government wish to cut the number of teenage pregnancies in this country. How do people get pregnant? They have sexual intercourse. Therefore, would it not be infinitely more sensible to provide grounded sex education classes that cover not just the physical side of sex but also explore the responsibilities that are inevitable on entering a sexual relationship. Perhaps if young people were treated with respect and given straightforward information and were encouraged to discuss dating, their feelings and attitudes to sex then they would make an informed choice about sex.
Jane-Claire McCall, Scotland

We have forgotten the real issue. "Why is teenage pregnancy so high". Let us look at the following: child becomes teenager wants to move out of home with boyfriend. Problem - nowhere to live due to housing shortage. So what does she do - falls pregnant. Why? So that she can obtain council housing. This government and its so-called family values has taken all control out of the hands of parents and decided to let the children make a mockery of parenthood. Whilst the pill might solve teenage pregnancy it certainly will not solve AIDs. The fear is no longer teenage pregnancy - it is sexually transmitted diseases which are incurable.
Mark Harrington, England

This is the right direction to be heading in. Girls who have had unprotected sex must be encouraged to feel that they have somewhere to go for emergency contraception, without having to feel ashamed. However, additionally, we must continue to teach youngsters about the importance of using condoms to protect against STIs and we must show young girls (and boys) that they should not feel pressured into having sex, but can wait. However, all this would not be of any help if it was thought that parents would be informed, as teenagers would simply not ask for help, but would be forced to go through the worry alone, and risk an unwanted pregnancy.
AG, Scotland.

Provision of a powerful medicine to young adolescents without even the knowledge of parents, never mind their consent, strikes at the very heart of the moral and ethical concepts of family. Despite years of ever more involved sex education we see a relentless increase in the numbers of teenage pregnancies. It is about time we started asking the question why this is so and to challenge the structure of these programmes, which seem to lean more towards instructional sessions without any of the caution necessary for the protection of young teenagers. We should also remind ourselves that the agencies responsible for this failed regime are the very authors of this latest piece of wisdom.
Paul B, UK

What happened to the morality

HS Cheng, UK
I do not understand why we are not dealing with the root problem. I understand that giving the pills is a temporary solution. But is there anything done to address the root problem? Why the under-aged and teenagers practice such things? By giving them access to pills easily - will this encourage them furthermore? Yes, it will definitely reduce girls being pregnant. But will this method prevent our future generation from indulging in this practice. What happened to the morality?
HS Cheng, UK

What gives the state the right to interfere in family life? I think its scary that the government wants to control everything, even the relationship between children and parents. Who gave them this moral mandate? Taking care of teenagers is challenging enough, without the government encouraging secrecy and extra barriers to communication.
Anne, Dubai/Uk

My children are my responsibility and my duty, not the Government's

Bob Rakoczy, UK
Shouldn't we parents have the final say as to what happens with our own children? This "Brave New World" mentality of "New Labour" is frighteningly close to the governments of other countries (e.g. Yugoslavia, Romania) which allowed experimentation on their citizenry without their consent. My children are my responsibility and my duty, not the Government's.
Bob Rakoczy, UK

If parents cannot or will not give their children information about contraception then the school must act in loco parentis. When will this country make sex education compulsory as part of the national curriculum?
Amanda Nicoll, UK

If it were not confidential then the whole process would be undermined. Can you imagine a young girl asking for pills if she knew her parents may find out? It simply wouldn't happen. Unfortunately, a lot of children are not able to broach these awkward subjects with the people who should give them the most support - their parents.
Robbo, England

We do not live in an ideal society

Carol-Anne McNamara, England
As I am not a parent I can't say what I would expect to be told in this situation. Ideally parents would be aware of such huge issues in their daughters' lives but we do not live in an ideal society. The fact is that many, many teenage girls, including those underage, will be now able to obtain the morning-after pill over the counter. Surely it is better that they should get the drug from their school nurse who will also provide the necessary support, counselling and sex education to help prevent a recurrence of the problem.
Carol-Anne McNamara, England

I agree totally that teachers should be able to distribute the morning-after pill to girls. The whole point of making this contraception available over the counter is to reduce the huge amount of unwanted teenage pregnancies. Therefore girls who feel they are able to approach a teacher in confidence, should they find themselves in this situation, can only go 100% towards what we are trying to achieve. Less teenage pregnancies and young people becoming more aware of their own responsibilities.
Jo, UK

Parents surely must have the right to be told, if not necessarily the right to refuse the pill to their child. Is parenting now to be the preserve of government and not parents?
Michael Dunne, England

Local health authorities and schools should be applauded for their free-thinking approach

Ben, UK
It is a relief to see such a progressive policy being used to combat teenage pregnancies. Goaded by a sex-driven media, more and more teenagers are tempted to have sex. It may not be pallatable to the older generation but that is the reality that adolescents have to live with. Local health authorities and schools should be applauded for their free-thinking approach.
Ben, UK

All this will do is undermine efforts to get teenagers - and everyone else - to use condoms! Who's being irresponsible here?
Marion, UK in USA

Parents should be told of under age pill taking. Parents have a legal responsibility for their children until the age of 18. How can parents continue to be held responsible when the state is constantly undermining their authority and position. This also happened when the homosexual age of consent was lowered to 16 when parents are legally responsible for their children until 18. It just shows once more the low moral standards of the government.
Stuart Robinson, England

I do not think that it is appropriate for the parents to be told. Teenagers have enough problems if they request the pill, and are branded as being promiscuous by the church and others in authority. The fact that they have the sense to request the morning after pill is sense enough that they are grown up and I see no benefit in telling parents who should have explained and allowed their children to choose a method of protection in the first place.
M. Cruickshank, The Netherlands

I'd be much more upset if my daughter felt she couldn't talk to us about it. As some one who is the result of an unexpected pregnancy, I have vowed to give whatever support I can if the need arises.
Dominic Hill, UK

I can see the case for not telling parents (although I don't like it much), but to withhold the information from the girl's GP is an unbelievably stupid idea. How is a GP to know if their proposed prescription will clash with other medication if they don't know what, if any, other medication is involved? Also, if this pill must be handed out it should be monitored so girls who constantly ask for it can be offered advice on other options.
John B, UK

Send us your comments:

Your E-mail Address:



Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

08 Jan 01 | Health
Morning after pill from schools

Links to more Talking Point stories