Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Published at 13:54 GMT
"Forgettable" teen contraceptive sparks fury
Professor Guillebaud suggests girls should use contraceptive implants
Girls as young as 12 or 13 could be fitted with long-term contraceptive devices at school at the same time as receiving their German Measles jab, a leading family planning expert has said.
He said new devices were coming on the market which could mean that teenagers could be implanted with devices which could switch off their ability to have children.
They could then "forget" about contraception and, when they felt able to have a child, they could remove the implant.
His comments have sparked outrage from family values campaigners, including a call for Professor Guillebaud to be arrested for promoting underage sex.
Professor Guillebaud said the move could help to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. Britain currently has the highest level of teen pregnancies in Europe.
He said a highly-effective hormonal implant which has just received its European licence could help teenagers, but added that it had side effects.
The Implanon device, created by Dutch company Organon, is a tiny 50mm rod of hormones that is inserted under the skin of the arm and lasts for three years.
It was granted a European licence last December and is expected to be ratified by the Medicines Control Agency at the end of the month.
Prof Guillebaud said: "Older women have had 'forgettable' contraception - as opposed to the pill or condoms - for a long time, with things like sterilisation and the coil.
"But it is younger women who are more in need of forgettable contraception because they are more forgetful and less likely to get their act in order.
"In the past, the only long term forgettable options have been sterilisation or the IUCD (intra-uterine contraceptive device, better known as the coil.)
"Young women are understandably nervous of going to a doctor and having a coil inserted into their uterus and GPs have a tendency to think it is the pill or nothing."
He said implants were not appropriate now and that their use should only be voluntary.
He did not beleive they should be used until they were accepted by society.
Implants could also be developed for men, he added.
Professor Guillebaud said: "In the future, and as a social policy, when you have an area with a huge rate of teenage pregnancies you could go into a school, obviously with the consent of the parents, and fit this device so that everybody would start out not being able to have a baby.
"It could be fitted into girls once they have had their periods but before they have had sex - for instance, at the time when they were having their Rubella jabs."
He believed abstinence was the best contraceptive device for teenage girls and also protected against sexually transmitted diseases.
But he added: "If they cannot be good, we can help them to be careful."
Anti-abortion charity LIFE called for Professor Guillebaud to be arrested for promoting unlawful sex.
A spokeswoman said: "This will only fan the flame of teenage pregnancy and will do nothing to cut the numbers.
"It is a green light to go ahead and be promiscuous and we would call for Professor Guillebaud to be arrested because he is promoting unlawful sex among underage people and that is a grave offence."
Valerie Riches, deputy director of the pressure group Family Youth Concern, said: "I think the whole idea is repugnant.
"It will give youngsters the go-ahead to engage in sexual intercourse at an even earlier age and will make them more vulnerable to exploitation.
"It will not protect them from sexually-transmitted diseases and could well be very destructive to later relationships. I find the whole concept alarming."
Yvonne Stayt of pressure group Concern for Family and Womanhood said: "To have a hormone implanted into your daughters at the same time as a Rubella jab to me seems absolutely abhorrent.
"It is very much more important that young girls and boys are taught about not having sex outside marriage than how to have sex before they are even over the age of consent."
Chief executive of the Family Planning Association Ann Weyman was also critical of Prof Guillebaud's ideas.
"It is more a question of young women having the self-confidence to take control of their lives and make responsible decisions about relationships," she said.
"Contraception has to be viewed within this broader context."
And Alison Hadley of the Brook Advisory Centres said the implants would probably bring down teen pregnancy levels, but would not encourage "positive choices" about relationships and sex.
"It should not be about imposing a method on them," she said.
Family campaigner Victoria Gillick said: "This amounts to the spaying of young children.
"This is outrageous that anybody could suggest that this - it is the wholescale sterilisation of young children.
"It is chemical castration. It is repugnant."