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 
Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Is 14 too young to learn about abortion?

A booklet giving advice about abortion to teenagers as young as 14 has angered anti-abortion groups.

The UK Family Planning Association's pamphlet explains attitudes to abortion, what procedures are followed, the law and where to get further advice.

Pro-lifers say it encourages under-age sex, sells abortion and does not promote choice.

But the FPA insist youngsters do not regard abortion as taboo and want to be educated on all aspects of sexual health.

Do you think 14-year-olds are too young to learn about terminating pregnancies, or is it sensible to make young people aware of their options? Send us your views. HAVE YOUR SAY Speaking as a parent with two young daughters, I would much prefer ALL the various forms of pregnancy prevention and "cure" be presented to my children and myself in a clear and understandable way. It is then up to me to make sure that my children understand their responsibilities in the matter.
Ian Thomas, England

A 14 year old is not considered mature enough to drive a car yet has the power to make a life or death decision

Anita Menezes, Canada
A 14 year old is not considered mature enough to drive a car yet has the power to make a life or death decision. Why can't the brochure focus on contraception instead of the extremely traumatic "final solution" - abortion?
Anita Menezes, Canada

How reassuring to see the 2 sides of the debate unchanged. The "pro-choice" people offering informed debate, and the anti-abortion lobby howling about how it is wrong to destroy "God's creation". When are they going to realise that such pompous rhetoric does nothing except alienate them from the vast majority of young people in the UK who are more pragmatic than they realise? Do yourselves a favour, and let people decide for themselves. Give them ALL the information and let them get on with it.
Russell, UK

I think it is interesting to note that the majority of people who have a problem with abortion seem to be men! They are not the ones that have to go through the trauma of pregnancy and labour.
Jenni, England

It seems that many people view pregnancy in terms of black and white and that isn't the case. People shouldn't be forced to have a child if they don't want it or if they are unable to cope. Whilst there are alternatives such as adoption, these can come back to haunt the individual in later years.
Jen, UK

You can never be too young to learn about abortion. Some may say this encourages unprotected sex and abortion is an "easy" way out. I am not promoting abortion or sex. What I am trying to put across is that it is better to take precautions when you can rather than seek precautions when you have no choice.
Steve, Malaysia

Who else is aware that human life begins at conception? Also, some so-called "forms of contraception" really cause abortions which kill a newly conceived foetus by preventing its implantation in the womb (e.g. the coil and the morning after pill).
Jonathan Shiell, UK

If you're physically old enough to have sex then you're old enough to learn about ALL the consequences!!
Gareth Knowles, UK

If a girl wants an abortion she should be able to find the information she needs as easily as possible

Anne, UK
Girls as young as 12 are now having babies. In light of this I think that information on abortion is vital as too many young girls will miss out on an education at both secondary and university level to look after their children. If a girl wants an abortion she should be able to find the information she needs as easily as possible.
Anne, UK

This society is saturated with sexual imagery and no one in films seems to take precautions. Sex is portrayed as uncontrollable or something that happens shortly after meeting anyone. While abortion should be a possibility, it should also be a last resort.
Elsie Townley, UK

When are we going to teach teenagers how to say "no"? Prevention must be better than this ghastly "cure".
Chris Klein, UK

I am sick of people who brand the pro-lifers as "narrow minded bigots". 14 is too young to have sex at all. If we must make this information available, it should contain ALL the facts, including the possibilities of infertility, serious internal damage, and long-term guilt.
John S, UK

It's about time women took responsibility for their own actions instead of being looked after by men all the time

Philip Johnson, England
The leaflet is irrelevant. Information on this stuff is available from many other sources, e.g. the Internet. Do the anti-abortion groups want to shut that down too ? Our views do not matter, the kids will always be able to find stuff out. What they read and what they do in this matter is their business and NOBODY ELSE'S.
Sahan Amarasekera, UK

If children are to be given the full facts then it should be mandatory to show details of the full abortion procedure. Something hidden from the majority of adults.
Michael Willis, Scotland

The world population needs to be reduced. Abortion education would be most beneficial in addressing this issue.
Winston Purges, USA

It's about time women took responsibility for their own actions instead of being looked after by men all the time.
Philip Johnson, England

How many of the millions of unborn children that have been aborted could have made a valuable contribution to society? Current levels of abortion are far too high and cast shame on our so-called civilised society. Virginity is a precious gift and young people should be encouraged to retain it until they are mature enough to fully cope with the consequences of their behaviour.
Chris, UK

They should be given advice on "how not to get pregnant" instead of "how to get rid of your child". It is not a choice, but a life. The choice should be made beforehand with the use of a pregnancy prevention device or, no sex at all.
Rick Lemus, SBA, CA, USA

In my opinion, young people should be given all of the options, and any advice they can have. No matter what anti abortionists, think, this is a free country, & every woman or child/woman, should be free to choose, and live with the consequences.
Fran Williamson, English living in U.S.

This debacle simply typifies society in England today. We see 14 year old girls having sex and we teach them about abortions, this disgusts me. Why don't we teach them about life and morality? Why don't we send them to school, show them the satisfaction of education? Why don't we show all these people that this is unacceptable?
Tomasz Domanski, United Kingdom

I have not seen the pamphlet under discussion but as a general principal I would support anything that enables the making of an informed choice. I am firmly pro-life, for both mother and child, and am firmly pro choice, both before sex and after pregnancy. It is high time that we refused to get into entrenched positions on such important matters, and took into consideration that each individual mother and child is unique and have their own long term needs and priorities. The first thing that God gave to humanity was freedom of choice. It has never been taken away.
Tony, UK

Girls should be taught about abortion at an early age. More importantly, they must be taught how to handle the selfish bigots who protest against abortion rights. And the earlier they learn how to avoid these misguided, selfish zealots, the better.
Charlene, Canada

I was absolutely disgusted to see this leaflet was given out to 14 year olds. To portray abortion as just another form of birth control is plainly wrong. It's no good saying that this is just giving the CHILDREN (and face it that's what they are) the facts and letting them decide for themselves. they are having sex education rammed down their throats as it is , and it still is not stopping teenage pregnancies.
Dave, UK

As a physician, I can tell you that even as early as 3 weeks, the "object" being terminated has little hands, like yours, little feet, like yours, and a heart beat, like yours. Let's call "it" what "it" is...a baby in the smallest form. This brochure, if its going to be accurate, should be providing girls with pictures of what exactly will be in their bellies when they get pregnant. But pro-choice advocates don't consult physicians like me when they create their brochures!
Dr. M.Winn, USA

If we were less prudish in our schools and society about sex, and treated the subject in a frank, honest and matter-of-fact manner I am certain fewer teenagers would ever get to the stage of requiring an abortion. Of course it isn't a method of contraception, but pragmatically, it is sometimes necessary. Let's limit these incidences and show young adults the respect they deserve by giving them a decent education on all aspects of life.
Jo, UK

When I was 11 years old I started receiving detailed sex education lessons with abortion as a topic under that umbrella, our teacher went to a lot of detail with us about the different types of abortion and at how many weeks different methods could be implemented. At no time were we under the impression that abortion could be used as a method of contraception as indeed it shouldn't
Kate, UK

This is all part of the furore going on at present that wants to keep our children ignorant on the facts of life (see also Section 28). Anyone who thinks ignorance is a cherished quality ought to walk around with a blindfold on for an hour, then they will know the benefit of knowledge!
Trevor, UK

It is ironic that children are not legally adult until 18years and yet there are still some people who still want to treat children as adults!!!! Young girls do not need to have a booklet telling them where they can get advice on abortion. It should not be performed on children!! Hasn't the government learned that spending money on these kinds of things does not work! it will only encourage them to have abortions not prevent them.
Vanessa, London

Anyone who knows about sexual intercourse should also be taught about abortion. It's not a question of ethics, it's a question of sexual sagacity.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK (in US)

14 is too old for this sort of education. I was given school sex education lessons at 11 and even then I think is too old. If you want to educate children on such things as abortion and safe family planning then it should be done early and before the ever early onset of puberty in most teenagers. And when children are taught about abortion, I think it is important to stress what it entails; the killing of another human being.
Benj'min Mossop, Britain

Abortion is not a family planning method - it is a highly traumatic operation which has a huge social stigma attached to it

Christopher Stalford, United Kingdom
The problem with these pamphlets arises not from the fact that they were given to 14-year olds, but rather from the fact that they depict abortion as the only way out for young girls who are unfortunate enough to fall pregnant. I have no problem whatsoever with people being educated about family planning methods such as contraceptives etc. but abortion is not a family planning method - it is a highly traumatic operation which has a huge social stigma attached to it. For the Family Planning Association to portray it as the only alternative is both unfair and unjust to young girls.
Christopher Stalford, United Kingdom

If children knew all the facts, we wouldn't have such a high pregnancy rate in the first place! Abortion is one topic in what is a wide ranging subject area. Personally, I think 10 - 12 year olds should be learning sex education. Teaching this to 14 year olds is quite simply too late in far too many instances. The statistics prove that!
Alex Banks, Wales

I live in the north of Scotland, the most narrow-minded part of the country. We have the highest rate of abortion in the country, so any education is worth its weight in gold. If I became pregnant accidentally I am glad it is my choice what to do about it.
Marina, North Scotland

Growing up outside the UK I started getting sexual education in school at the age of 11. This was then a regular feature until the age of 17, sometimes disguised as biology, other times as information given from the school nurse. We were taught about how to prevent pregnancies, what could happen if we didn't use condoms, the reality of abortions (we knew it was there, but were told never ever to think of it as a contraceptive). I went to a state school and the first one of all my schoolmates who got pregnant was 19 and a half when she had her baby. Most of us hadn't had sex until our 20s. Look at the facts: In countries where they give a good and comprehensive sex education there are less teenage pregnancies and the kids actually abstain from sex until they feel mature enough. It's like alcohol, if you take away the mystery, it won't be half as exciting anymore!
Christine, UK

The educating of contraception should be the strongest to try and prevent the pregnancy in the first place

J Taylor, England
If girls are getting pregnant at 14 and even younger they should be made aware of the options of how to deal with it. But the educating of contraception should be the strongest to try and prevent the pregnancy in the first place If girls are going to have sex at this age and how are we to stop them it should be instilled in them not to allow it to happen with out precautions.
J Taylor, England

I don't think a 14 year old girl is mature enough to handle the risks & challenges of motherhood . Abortion is obviously the only option ...why not make them aware of the option .
Subhashis , USA

Most 14 yr. olds are well-acquainted with sex in the physical sense. They do need guidance about the consequences of their actions, and that guidance is all too often not available at home. Properly informed about the physical and psychological consequences of abortion enables them to make responsible courses of action possible. I cannot understand why adults think that children are not sexual beings.
John R.Wilson, USA

Sex education is good for children at the age of fourteen provided it is an overview of the whole of it and not sporadic information on each of the topics related to sex. The booklet must contain facts about sex without protection, the sexually transmitted diseases that may come about as a consequence, abortion being an option in the event the girl gets pregnant. This overall picture gives children the opportunity to assess the situation as a whole before making any decision.
Devika, Malaysia

It is not just a callous thing but a terrible one for fourteen year olds to be given such advice

Hamilton Arrey Ayuk, US
It is not just a callous thing but a terrible one for fourteen year olds to be given such advice. This is a premonition and presentiment of the self destruction of the human race. What a tacit method pro-abortionists are using to impress their manner of life upon the rest of the world.
Hamilton Arrey Ayuk, US

If school children as young as 14 years are to be taught the facts of sex and abortion, give them the whole truth, including the complications and possible life-long consequences of their actions, not just the glossy, rosy perfect images that pro-choice activists always push.
Jeremy, US

By the age of 14, girls are now empowered to decided, on matters that not even the House of Lords can in this country - give a death sentence. A really healthy attitude to life ! Who is FPA kidding ? Or these are shock tactics to earn high ground over the pro-life ?
Karl Camilleri, Cranfield

As a 14-year-old I was told about everything from contraceptives to abortion

Jade, Australia
As a 14-year-old, I was told about everything from contraceptives to abortion. It hasn't made me feel if I had sex that I could have an abortion if I accidentally fell pregnant. As I go to a Catholic school we were also taught about the morality of having sex in the first place with our religion. But what it boils down to is that it is the individual's choice and educating them just provides them with options and the possible outcomes of their choices.
Educating children at 14 is a good place to start because they are generally mature enough to understand the importance of the information and at least one will be active already.
Jade, Australia

There's no point fighting against the facts. We might all agree that 14 is too young to be getting pregnant or even having sex, but if that's what is happening, then withholding information on what to do if pregnancy occurs won't solve anything. Better sex education all round is essential and the facts about abortion should be known - if nothing else, I would have thought it would discourage children from irresponsible behaviour - no one who knows the facts will think abortion is an easy way out.
Laura, UK

Would it be cynical to say that this seems to be part of an agenda to get abortion accepted as a regular method of family planning?

Chris, UK
I'm mystified as to what abortion has to do with rising teenage pregnancies? It doesn't deter young children from indulging in sexual behaviour, it doesn't offer protection against unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Would it be cynical to say that this seems to be part of an agenda to get abortion accepted as a regular method of family planning?
Chris, UK

I think the booklet is a good idea. Better that every girl has the option of what she could do if she got pregnant rather than have pro-lifers preaching about murder to her. If a teenage girl is guilt-tripped into having a baby then any future she may have been considering would be ruined. It's far better to wait till you're older to have kids so that you can give them what they need. In my eyes a baby is only a baby when its been born. Abortion is not murder, it's a choice.
Sarah, UK

I used to hold broadly pro-abortion views until I saw my daughter's first scan. By all means give 14 year olds the facts - the FULL facts, including the way abortions are carried out, what it involves for the foetus and the long-term health risks for the mother.
Let's stop pretending that a foetus at 12 or 16 weeks, let alone 22 weeks development is 'just a ball of cells' - ask any parent who's seen a scan of their baby at this stage. Babies born prematurely just a few weeks later now regularly survive in specialist units.
Andy D, UK

I think 14 is too old. Children need a full and balanced sex education long before they become sexually active. In fact I would say that children have a right to this information. It is because we leave these matters too late that the UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe.
It is no good the pro-life groups sticking their heads in the sand, they have to face reality. In many ways these groups of do-gooders simply make matters worse.
John, UK

Teach about sex education but don't make the destruction of life an ok option

Neil, Scotland
Abortion, Termination - terms for what is at the end of the day the destruction of an unborn little baby (regardless of how many weeks). I would think that such a booklet will use 'pleasant' terms to make a choice to kill a life a bit easier. This doesn't make the destruction of the life any more right so I am against this 'morally neutral' stance.
Teach about sex education but don't make the destruction of life an ok option. As the Bible says, God knew us when we were in the womb and knows the number of hairs on our heads - he is the ultimate and supreme authority and to him should we obey and not commit murder!
Neil, Scotland

The majority of young teenage girls in the UK are physically developed enough to bear a child and they are under massive peer pressure to become sexually active. TV and films portray this as normal. So yes, as a group they should be informed about abortion.
It should be described as an option, not right or wrong, but an option that depends upon one's moral and religious beliefs and medical advice. They should equally be advised dispassionately about the risks of early sexual activity, options on contraception and adoption.
It should be emphasised throughout that celibacy IS an option. Any other approach leaves a vacuum which will soon be filled by less reasoned and even-handed advice. It also leaves frightened teenagers floundering on their own, a situation no one could welcome.
K Sadler, UK

Documentary and televisual information available does not glorify abortion - no-one looks forward to the prospect of having one

David Daly, UK
In the real world teenagers are becoming sexually active in larger numbers at earlier ages. The morals of that are for another debate.
The idea that this information will encourage promiscuity is complete nonsense. Documentary and televisual information available does not glorify abortion. No-one looks forward to the prospect of having one.
If this information informs, then teenagers are made more aware of the consequences of early sexual activity.
David Daly, UK

Why can we not let kids be kids. We stuff their heads with sex education then tell them to go off and don't do it.
Gerry, Scotland

I feel that if 14-year-olds feel they're mature enough to have sex, they should also be mature enough to make an informed choice about whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy and into parenthood.
If you don't tell them about termination of pregnancy, as well as telling them about contraception (which didn't get mentioned when we did sex education at school unless you were doing 'O' level Biology, and only then when you were 16) most will assume that there is no option but to have the baby they are carrying, which, for some people but not necessarily for all, would be a tragedy. After all, I believe it was Sheila Kitzinger who said, "if you don't have information, you don't have a choice".
Lynne Morgan, UK

No, I don't think it is. It's a sad fact, but there are a not-insignificant number of girls and boys who are having sex at that age, and are getting pregnant. Information about abortion should be an integral part of sex education for both girls AND boys.
Laura P, UK

The key in all these cases, in my opinion, is in the information. We need to inform children so they have the information if they need it. This pamphlet seems to do that so I support it fully.
KJD, England

Facts are better than information they got from their friends

Nic, England
If you just look at the last couple of years, the teenage pregnancy rate has gone up considerably. I think if a teenage girl does get pregnant then they should know all of their options. Anyway teenage girls of 14-18 know about this sort of thing anyway so why try to hide the basic facts.
If they don't get the information out of the leaflet then they will get it from somewhere else. Facts are better than information they got from their friends.
Nic, England

Of course teenagers should be taught about abortion. The same goes for general sex education and this should include homosexuality and come to think of it, teenagers should be taught about drugs. Not talking about subjects will mean that teenagers remain naive to facts and details.
Colin, Netherlands

Recognising the situation and knowing the options available can only help a girl/ woman make the right choice

Jenni, UK

Of course, teenagers should be taught about abortion. The same goes for general sex education and this should include homosexuality. Not talking about these subjects will mean that teenagers remain naive to facts and details.
Colin, Netherlands

I knew about abortion long before I was 14, and it didn't do me any harm. It hasn't made me rush out to get pregnant just so that I can try it for myself, as some people would imagine. I'm 29 now, and the knowledge hasn't affected my morals or life in general. I'd far rather 14 year olds were made aware of these things than lived in ignorance, frankly.
Sarah, UK

Providing the information is fair, balanced and uncritical, I think it is perfectly acceptable to tell even a 12-year-old about abortion. Just because they know about it, doesn't mean they're going to want one. We were taught about abortion at the same time as contraception. This part of sex education was only available at 16 and only for those in the "O" level biology group, not CSE students. It is, unfortunately, the uneducated or simply reckless who find themselves pregnant at 14 but then deny it to themselves until it's too late to change the situation. Recognising the situation and knowing the options available can only help a girl/ woman make the right choice.
Jenni, 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
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Talking Point stories