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Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 18:40 GMT
Mother loses 'right to know' case
Sue Axon
Sue Axon believes parents have a right to be told
A mother has lost her court battle for a parent's "right to know" if girls are being advised on abortion.

Sue Axon, 51, of Baguley, Manchester, wanted the law changed to prevent girls under 16 getting confidential advice.

Mrs Axon said she regretted having an abortion 20 years ago that caused her "guilt, shame and depression".

But the High Court rejected a review of guidelines which state terminations do not need parents' consent and doctors should respect girls' confidentiality.

Mr Justice Silber, sitting in London, said Mrs Axon, or any other parent, had no right to know unless the child decided otherwise.

I hope these proceedings will help parents and children to recognise the trauma of abortion and to talk openly about sexual matters
Sue Axon

Forcing a girl to tell her parents "may lead her to make a decision that she later regrets or seek the assistance of an unofficial abortionist", he added.

But the judge also warned that abortions should not be made available if the young person lacked the maturity to understand all the advice they were given.

Mrs Axon, who has five children, also wanted parents to be told of advice or treatment in respect of sexually transmitted infections.

Her elder daughter, Joy, is pregnant and expecting a baby due on her 17th birthday on 25 March.

Her QC Philip Havers had told Mr Justice Silber she did not say that doctors could not carry out treatment without parents' consent but that she had the right to be notified.

Mrs Axon believes current guidelines "undermine" her role as a parent and infringe her parental rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

UK's 'serious problem'

But Philip Sales, appearing for the health secretary, had told the judge her arguments had "absolutely no foundation in law".

At a hearing in November, he said the UK had "a very serious problem" with high teenage pregnancy rates - and confidentiality was a key component of government policies to reduce conception rates and improve sexual health.

Denying teenagers the right to confidential healthcare will only mean that teenagers stop going to their doctor
Tom Dowler, London, UK

After Monday's ruling Mrs Axon said: "I am obviously disappointed by the judgment of the court today.

"Having endured the trauma of abortion, I brought the case to ensure that medical professionals would not carry out an abortion on one of my daughters without first informing me.

"I could then discuss such a life-changing event with her and provide the support she would need."

She added that she had no regrets about bringing the proceedings but would not be seeking leave to appeal.

'Damaging advice'

"I hope these proceedings will help parents and children to recognise the trauma of abortion and to talk openly about sexual matters.

"It is only then that our children can be protected from potentially damaging advice offered by professionals who do not know them."

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said the ruling confirmed the Department of Health's guidelines were in line with the law.

She said further guidance on how to handle cases of potential abuse and other risks of sexual activity causing "significant harm" would be published shortly.

The Family Planning Association, which had campaigned against Mrs Axon's appeal, applauded the judge's decision.

Chief Executive Anne Weyman said informing parents that girls were being given abortion advice would be a "disaster, leading to young people staying away from services and risking unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections".

Dr Beverly Malone, General Secretary of The Royal College of Nursing, said the judgement would give confidence to nurses and other healthcare professionals in providing confidential sexual health advice to young girls.

Anti abortion group The Pro Life Alliance said it was staggering a young girl could "end the life of another human being without her parents knowing anything about it."

Hear Sue Axon speak outside the high court

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09 Nov 05 |  Manchester
Mother begins 'right to know' bid
08 Nov 05 |  Manchester


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