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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 10:51 GMT
Head-to-head: Teenage abortions
Pregnant woman
Some families have strong views for or against abortion
Sue Axon's legal challenge to guidelines allowing girls under the age of 16 to have abortions without their parents' knowledge has put the issue in the spotlight.

Victoria Gillick, a mother of 10 who failed in her own efforts to stop doctors prescribing contraception to under-16s without parental consent, is backing the challenge.

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, offers an opposing view.

VICTORIA GILLICK

It isn't a right of veto. It is just a right to know. That's what Sue Axon is also saying.

She's not saying 'I want the right to stop an abortion because I'm opposed to abortion', she's just saying 'I want the right to know'.

I've been a pregnancy counsellor for the last 14 years and I've seen numerous schoolgirls who have been in this situation and of course they're in a panic. Older teenagers are too when they discover that they are pregnant.

What I can do is advise them but what I can't do is take them to a hospital, put them on an operating table, and abort [their pregnancies].

If they have had to have a sticky plaster or a paracetamol at school they have to inform the parents

If a girl goes to a GP and discovers she's pregnant after a pregnancy test and then says ' I want to keep the baby', he's got to inform the parents.

The only reason this policy has been brought in is because the girl wants an abortion - possibly - but they are not telling the mother. Now the mother and the father will have to pick up the pieces afterwards.

Child's expectation

They expect their parents to be informed about everything else.

If they have had to have a sticky plaster or a paracetamol at school, they have to inform the parents.

So a child expects the parents to know.

The panic for the child is they believe they have done something which will upset the parent.

As a counsellor I would never presume to know what kind of parent we are talking about. The child may say 'she'll kill me'. I know as a mother that may well be the initial reaction but it isn't the truth about the parent.

What Sue Axon is saying is that the judgement that is being made about them, by doctors not telling them, is that they are a bad parent, and it's on the evidence of a frightened child and the child needs support at that time.

ANNE WEYMAN

Let's be clear what the case is about. It's about contraception as well as abortion. It has very far-reaching consequences.

The evidence we have from young people is that confidentiality is the single most important factor for them in whether they are going to come forward and use the service.

We need to be clear also about what the guidance says about parents. It says professionals should encourage young people to come forward and talk to their parents.

We have to recognise not all children come from supportive families. The health professional will encourage them to talk to their parents and will also explore the circumstances for them where they may feel unable to.

We don't unfortunately live in a perfect world with perfect relationships - many families never talk about sex and never talk to their children

We have to be clear also that although Mrs Axon is saying that she only wants to know, there are circumstances where parents will put a lot of pressure on young people about what they should or shouldn't be doing.

In the end the person who is going to be most affected by the decision is the young girl herself.

Strong views

It must be the case that she is supported to make a decision that is going to be right for her in the long-term.

She needs support and advice to do that. The majority of girls in that position will consult their parents, but there may be circumstances where the parents have such a particular point of view, which they want to influence that child with, that it will be almost impossible for the child to make a decision that in the long run is going to be right for them.

The health professional has to support that child in dealing with all those issues and making sure in the circumstances they do have an adult that is close to them.

We don't unfortunately live in a perfect world with perfect relationships. Many families never talk about sex and never talk to their children and that's why they find it so difficult to raise these issues with them.



SEE ALSO
Mother seeks abortion rule change
08 Nov 05 |  Manchester
Mother to challenge abortion laws
14 Dec 04 |  Manchester
Mother calls for abortion review
18 Oct 04 |  Manchester
Mother angry at secret abortion
13 May 04 |  Nottinghamshire
Q&A: Teen pregnancy and confidentiality
31 Jul 04 |  Nottinghamshire

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