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1983: Mother loses contraception test case

A mother of 10 has failed to prevent doctors prescribing contraception to under-16s without parental consent.

Victoria Gillick appeared at the High Court seeking a declaration that none of her five daughters - aged 1 to 13 - could be prescribed or advised on birth control until they are 16.

Mr Justice Woolf ruled against her application and also rejected her attempt to prevent the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) distributing a circular advising doctors they can give contraception to under-16s without parental consent.


"Doctors encourage children to be promiscuous"

Victoria Gillick

When she heard the verdict Mrs Gillick, 36, burst into tears and collapsed into her husband's arms shouting, "God Almighty, that's ridiculous."

"The judge doesn't realise there are a large number of doctors happily encouraging children to be promiscuous," she added, shaking with emotion.

Counsel for Mrs Gillick, Mr Gerard Wright QC, had argued the act of giving contraceptive advice or treatment was "very close" to the criminal offence of aiding and abetting unlawful sexual intercourse.

The judge told the court: "I would regard the pill prescribed to the woman as not so much the 'instrument for a crime or anything essential to its commission,' but a palliative against the consequences of the crime."

Mrs Gillick's husband Gordon, 32, a designer, told reporters the case had cost more than 7,600, although a large proportion was paid by legal aid.

The couple - from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire - said they would continue the fight and remortgage their 13-bedroom Georgian home if necessary.

Mrs Gillick, a Roman Catholic, has been in a four-year dispute over the issue with West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority.

She says she has received thousands of letters of support and has the backing of the National Housewives Association with its 25,000 members.

The Family Planning Association has welcomed the judgement.

In Context
Mrs Gillick began a nationwide petition against the DHSS ruling and claimed to have attracted between 250,000 and 500,000 names altogether.

By November 1983 200 MPs were supporting Mrs Gillick's demands.

After securing legal aid Mrs Gillick took the case to the Appeal Court in December 1984 and the decisions made in July 1983 were overturned.

The issue was settled in October 1985 when the Law Lords ruled it was lawful for doctors to put under-16s on the pill without parental consent in exceptional circumstances.

In 2002 Mrs Gillick was working as a voluntary pregnancy advisory councillor in the UK - the country with the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe.

At the end of 2002 Victoria Gillick won 5,000 damages against a sexual health charity which alleged she was responsible for a rise in teenage pregnancies.


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