Sex education should be taught at pre-school level and 13-year-olds need better access to contraception in order to lower teenage pregnancies in Scotland, MSPs say.
But critics have accused the Scottish Government of following the same failed approach of ever-more sex education at ever-younger ages.
Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee made the calls after a six-month inquiry into why the country’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than most other Western European countries.
Duncan McNeil MSP, convener of the Health and Sport Committee wrote in the foreword to the report: “There is a view that efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy should begin as early as possible, pre-school even; the most formative years for those children likely to go on to experience what are usually blandly termed ‘poor outcomes’ in their teens and into early adulthood.”
MSPs admitted in the report that the call for sex education at a younger age “has the potential to be controversial” and said there is “potential for parents to withdraw their children”.
The report also recommended that the Scottish Government improves “access to emergency contraception through specialised drop-in youth services”.
It said an “important contribution” was made by schemes already running which hand out free condoms to 13-24 yr olds.
This is despite hearing evidence during the inquiry from Christian campaign group CARE and the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF).
CARE Scotland raised concerns that reducing teenage pregnancy rates by relying mainly on the distribution of oral and long-acting contraceptives was “a recipe for an explosion in rates of STIs”.
The report said: “The Christian Medical Fellowship suggested that current government sexual health strategies for tackling teenage pregnancy were ‘primarily based on three false presuppositions: that contraception is safe, that youngsters will actually use it and that abstinence is impossible.'”
A Catholic Church spokesman said: “The Church suspects we cannot keep going on with an approach which, by its own measures, accepts it has failed so far. The Church suspects it is time to re-orientate our approach to relationship and sex education.”
The Scottish Government has said it will “consider” the particular recommendations made by the committee.
In the under-16 age group, there were 7.1 pregnancies per 1,000 people in 2010.