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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Should parents give consent to abortions?
Abortion pills
A 14-year-old from Nottinghamshire had a termination without her mother's knowledge, after seeking advice from a school health worker.

Explaining her anger the mother said, "It took my rights away as a mother completely".

In defence a local education authority spokeswoman said: "Teachers are not legally bound to inform parents," and added, "If there is to be any disclosure, the teachers should seek consent from that pupil they are working with."

Do you think parents have a right to know? Or is the law appropriate in its current form? If consent were required could it change the circumstances of the mother-to-be?


This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

The mother is just annoyed that she didn't get the trophy grandchild to show off
Keith, UK
This woman demonstrates everything that is wrong with parenting in the UK. She's more worried about her rights than how her daughter got in this mess in the first place. I guess she's just annoyed that she didn't get the trophy grandchild to show off.
Keith, UK

Good grief! Is it any wonder that we have a teenage pregnancy problem! The authorities are steadily removing every possible means for a parent to advise or discipline their children and because teenagers know that no-one will tell their parents, they carry on and then reap the terrible consequences. We've clearly gone mad and are failing a whole generation.
Gavin Skilton, London, UK

I'm shocked that the mother would have tried to talk her daughter to keep the baby at age fourteen. How old is this woman? 28 presumably!
Dee, Brighton, England

By formally excluding the parent we may be encouraging dysfunctionality
Brian S. McIntosh, UK
Only in repressed and dysfunctional family situations would a child not inform her parents about an abortion afterwards. If the child cannot talk to her parents about the issue this needs to be addressed. Functional families should be promoted and this involves ensuring communication occurs. By formally excluding the parent we may be encouraging dysfunctionality. Not good for parent or child.
Brian S. McIntosh, UK

Her parents should have been informed after the girls wishes had been complied with. That way what was best for the girl in the long term would have been done, but the parents could still have known in order to keep her under control in the future.
Gill, UK

Parental consent is required for all other major medical decisions in an underage child's life. I can't believe that something with as far reaching emotional, and possibly physical, consequences for a child can be carried out without any involvement from the parents at all!
S Sharma, UK

Why is it that the school cannot give the child an aspirin with the parents' consent, but can take the child for an abortion without the parents' knowledge?
Michael, York, UK

I cannot accept that the mother's rights have been infringed. The child has the right to anonymity, and also the right to proper counselling and advice from a responsible adult, and also access to contraception to prevent this from occurring in the first place. Perhaps the mother, who seems more concerned with how it's affected her than how her poor daughter must feel, should be asking herself why her daughter didn't feel able to go to her, rather than why the school (quite rightly) protected the daughter.
Phil Evans, Newcastle, Staffs

This case is symptomatic of the breakdown of the family unit
CK Yoe, London UK
It seems to me that the mother forfeited her rights when she abandoned her responsibility towards her daughter. This case is symptomatic of the breakdown in the family unit that held society society.
CK Yoe, London UK

This is a very difficult situation in which to find a solution satisfactory to all concerned. Children in these circumstances must be allowed to have a degree of confidentiality in this and other matters. As for the rights of the child's mother, the law doesn't allow the father to have any say in whether an abortion takes place or not so why should the pregnant girls mother.
Michael, Edinburgh, Scotland

I'd be horrified if I thought my daughter could not come to me in such a situation. Good on the school for having a system in place where the child feels able to seek assistance and support over such a difficult and potentially life-changing experience
Debra, UK

How can a mother not notice that her daughter is pregnant? Does she not notice her daughter feeling ill or under the weather? i take it the girl will be charged for having under-age sex, or does that law only apply to boys? Is it fair for the guy to take all the flack for this?
Jamie, Soham, Cambs

A child under 16 is just that, a child
JG, Cheshire

A child under 16 is just that, a child, and therefore the parents should be informed and required to approve this kind of treatment. An abortion is a surgical operation. Any other medical operation would require the parents' permission, so it is outrageous that a child should be allowed - worse still, encouraged - to undergo this type of treatment without the parents' knowledge and authorisation! I certainly wouldn't want somebody operating on my child without my permission!
JG, Cheshire

The child and her boyfriend have been involved in underage sex, will the police be involved or will they turn a blind eye to the breaking of yet another law.
Caroline, England

Yes they should. The law requires the parents to do certain things for their child, including caring for their welfare. The courts don't hesitate in taking action against those who fail to do this. If the state undermines the parent's responsibilities then what can parents do? If a young girl is pregnant, as uncomfortable as it may be for parents and agencies, the legal guardian needs to be involved in the decision.
Mark, London, UK

This case graphically highlights the arrogance of some schools that have developed a 'we know better than you do' attitude. They forget that at the end of the day the parents have to pick up the pieces.
Ray W, Soton, UK

Why is it only one person who can consent to a termination? Why does the male in the relationship have no say? He is half entitled to it too.
James, Halifax

Whilst teachers are not legally bound to inform parents, they have no legal right to give consent for medical treatment. It's also worth pointing out that as parents will be the ones left supporting a teenager and child they should be involved in any decision.
Pete, Yate, England

Recently parents have been told they risk prison if there kids play truant (as ultimately it is seen as the parent's responsibility). Isn't it hypocritical to then say that if their daughter gets pregnant and is sent from school to have an abortion, it is nothing to do with them?
Matt, Plymouth, UK

It is the daughter's decision whether or not to have a child, and also her choice whether her parents know or not. I personally think having a child at this age would rob her of her entire youth; she made the right decision.
Steve, Stevenage

Too many people assume too many rights over an unborn foetus
A Nicholson, Yorkshire

The law sounds spot on to me. Having heard lots of arguments pro-life and pro-abortion over the years. In all these arguments it has been and always will be very clear to me that the only person who should be entitled to make that decision is the woman who will have to carry the foetus for the nine months and the future responsibility for the child if born. Too many people assume too many rights over an unborn foetus.
A Nicholson, Yorkshire

I think this story speaks for itself. If a person under 18 cannot vote and cannot marry without parental consent, how can they make this kind of decision that has emotional consequences for both mother and daughter, and also for building a strong family based on trust?
Jill, Swansea

No, the parents shouldn't have a right to know. While in this case it seems that things have gone awry, the result of requiring schools to inform on their pupils will be more teenage pregnancies and would increase the likelihood of girls being assaulted of abused by a small minority of parents. Hard cases make bad law.
Tom, London

The mother should have been made aware of her daughter's situation so that she may have been able to take responsibility for her daughter's actions (illegal under-age sex) and help prevent her from getting into the same mess again. If her mother hadn't have found out by accident, what lessons would have been learned by the daughter? I don't believe the child's best interests were a priority here.
Jan, Edinburgh, UK

If the pupil does not wish to discuss this with her mother, then the mother should be examining her relationship with her daughter.... It is quite obvious that the pupil must have felt much anxiety about this and took an adult decision to terminate the pregnancy, which is likely to be with her for a lifetime. She felt ready enough to have sex, and so is old enough to know the consequences of her actions.
Colin Grant, Manchester, UK

I too have 14-year-old daughter, and the thought that a school would keep information such as that to themselves because they feel it is the girls 'best interest' is ridiculous. Teenagers are still growing and developing. They need guidance and support. Arrange a joint meeting with the school and parents by all means, but it's criminal to leave parents in the dark when these youngsters are under age.
Val Findlay, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

I can see this from two different sides... as a mother - yes of course I would want to know if my daughter was in a situation like this¿ but, looking at it objectively, it is better to have impartial advice from a third party in this kind of case. It is obvious from the mother's reaction that she is against abortion. So what is to say that she wouldn't have made her daughter feel like she had no choice but to have the baby, if she had told her about it to begin with? Having the advice from a third party enabled her to make a decision that was right for her¿ not one that she felt was what someone else wanted for her¿ or expected of her, because of their own moral code.
Jen, Essex, UK

Children in these circumstances must be allowed to have a degree of confidentiality
Michael, Edinburgh

This is a very difficult situation in which to find a solution satisfactory to all concerned. Children in these circumstances must be allowed to have a degree of confidentiality in this and other matters. As for the rights of the child's mother, the law doesn't allow the father to have any say in whether an abortion takes place or not so why should the pregnant girl's mother.
Michael, Edinburgh, Scotland

What parents should not do is consent to allowing their daughters to be spread across the front page of tabloids. In that respect is it a wonder why schools put the decision with the individual and not the so called respectful/supportive parent.
Paul John, London, UK

A friend of mine got pregnant at 15. She didn't tell her mum and went ahead with the abortion. It was the only feasible option for her and none of us doubted her choice. Her mother found out eventually and was furious thereby adding to her guilt. The mother should only be told if there is no doubt she will be supportive and let her daughter have the final say. If this is not possible the daughter should be given complete anonymity.
Anon, UK

Right to know? 14? Damn right!
RC Robjohn, UK

Right to know? 14? Damn right! People should stop being scared of taking parental responsibility. Who cares if it is fair or not - parents aren't supposed to be popular. A large proportion of parents in this country are immature themselves and so children just end up doing their own thing. Therein lies the problem.
RC Robjohn, UK

Small wonder the girl could not confide in her mother. Look at how she has reacted. If the mother had never found out the rest of Britain wouldn't be talking about it. This does the girl no good at such a stressful, traumatic and emotional time.
Sandra, Glasgow, Scotland

Under no circumstances should the parents be told
Kristie, Leamington Spa

Under no circumstances should the parents be told as they may try to influence their daughter's decision either way, and no matter how much they try to help out, it would still be the daughter who was responsible for the child. It is easy to say they wanted to keep the baby once the decision was taken away from them, but the realities of bringing up another child and being responsible for it for 16, 18, 20 years is entirely different. If the girl is old enough to make the decision to have sex, she is old enough to make the decision to have an abortion. At least she talked to someone before going ahead with it. Maybe the mother is just upset that it wasn't her, and is trying to blame the school for her own lack of parenting?
Kristie, Leamington Spa, UK

I think that parents shouldn't have a right to know if their daughter has had an abortion because their daughter might not want to tell them. I also think that the daughter shouldn't have had sex in the first place because it is obvious that if she did, she would get pregnant.
Rafia, London, England

Was that for her or the child?
Amy, Runcorn

I many times asked advice from the school nurse, and did not expect this confidential information to be disclosed to my parents. I think the right thing was done, and now the teenager may have a future without being tied down with a child, and relying on benefits. It seems the mother convinced her to keep it, was that for her or the child? At least at the school, it may be impartial advice.
Amy, Runcorn, Cheshire

Why doesn't the mother just admit she is hurt that her daughter could not come to her? The law is fine as it is. It's important to have someone a teenager can talk to in confidence. If a teen needed her parent's approval before she could go ahead with an abortion, in desperation some may resorted to suicide or an illegal abortion. That is far worse.
Tanya, Reading

Instead of worrying if their daughters are having abortions they do not know about perhaps parents should find out why their daughters are having sex at 14 and put a stop to it.
Barry, Hornchurch, UK

At what age would the parent have been informed... 13, 12, 11, 10?
Carol, England

If it were my own daughter facing the dilemma, I would want to know
Anon, England

This is a very difficult problem, one that I can personally see from both angles. I had a baby at 15 and didn't feel in control at all. I was given advice about abortion but it seemed like "OK we will tell you about it and give the choice as long as it is to keep the baby!" So maybe it would have been better to have an outsider help with the choices open to me. However if it were my own daughter facing the dilemma, I would want to know and give all my help, which would include outside counselling, and support her with whichever option she chose.
Anon, England

How can a child be able to make an informed decision on abortion if they do not talk to the person responsible for them? The child may feel guilty about having sex and getting pregnant, they may feel they have let people down and may want to hide the evidence. In addition they may be led to believe that they would not be able to cope with a child or it may impact their education. However many mothers would help their daughters to bring up their grandchild after they got over the initial shock, hence the parents should be included in the discussion, however they should not be allowed to stop the abortion.
Caron, England

A 14-year-old girl is presumed to be under the control of her parents. It should follow that the parent should be informed. I had the impression that sexual relations with a minor under 16 is against the law. There has been no mention of action being taken against the perpetrator of this "crime." Presumably in this age of "Political Correctness," and the rights of children; the actions of the said offender will be ignored - as will as the so called "rights," of the parent.
Roger, Swindon, UK

She is far too young to take on the responsibility of a child
Paul Ogleby, Middlesbrough

This girl was under 16 so the mother was right to complain about the school going over her head. But then again, she should have taught her daughter the facts of life instead of relying on the school to do it. I got the impression that the mother wouldn't have minded too much about the pregnancy, and was only complaining that the school never told her. I think the girl made a wise decision, as she is far too young to take on the responsibility of a child.
Paul Ogleby, Middlesbrough, UK

The mother has no right to know. It is her child's choice whether she wants to disclose this very personal information or not. She chose not to. As long as the support and advice she received from the school health worker was high quality, she can make her own decision.
Katharine, Nottingham, UK

If the school was obliged to tell parents, then it could stop many teenagers from seeking help from their teachers. Such a change must not be allowed to happen.
Matt Smith, Lancaster, UK

Interesting question. At 14 you can't legally consent to sex, but you can legally consent to an abortion.
David A, UK

Yet another example of poor parenting. Always an easy cop out blaming the school. Why did the girl get pregnant in the first place? Parents have a responsibility see this doesn't happen. I blame the mother and the child - not the school.
Steve, Southampton, England

What's the point entrusting the parents with the responsibility of a decision - they've proven that they've failed to teach the basic facts of life, or pass on any semblance of morals or responsibility.
Vernon Bigg, London

Rights as a mother! That makes me scorn with contempt. If you don't have the relationship to your children to be able to exercise that trust with them, you don't have any rights either. Trying to put legal constraints about the relationship between parents and offspring dehumanises the basic element that should carry them.
Martin, London, UK

I don't think the parents should be told by the school. That's the child's job - if she wants them to know. It's good that the school provide someone to talk to confidentially; otherwise some people would have nowhere to turn.
Eleanor, Chester, UK

Yes parents have a right to know. As you are the parent and guardian of these children. However I would be more concerned about why a child of 14 is having sex in the first place, and who made the girl pregnant in the first place. I think the mother should be asking these questions first before questioning the school and sending her to have an abortion.
Peter Yates, Southampton

Parents don't have a right to know - if the relationship is good, the child will consult them naturally, and if it isn't then it's the child's future that's at stake and it should be their decision. The pregnant girl should at all times be the only person giving consent for abortion, as she is the one who will have to live with the decision she makes, whatever it might be.
Patrick, London, England





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