Pandering to the ‘sexual rights’ of children to combat teen pregnancies didn’t work in the past and won’t work in the future, according to a national newspaper columnist and a University professor.
Their comments follow figures which show the Government’s £280 million Teenage Pregnancy Strategy is set to fall desperately short of its target to cut rates in half by 2010.
Brenda Almond, Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at the University of Hull, highlights family breakdown as a key factor in the rise of teen pregnancies.
The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir says children should be told that any early sex is “just plain wrong”.
Prof Almond, writing in the Daily Mail, says the idea of young people’s ‘sexual rights’ could be “the new secular religion of our times”.
She criticises the Government for carrying on with the same policies to tackle teen pregnancy, saying, “instead of accepting its mistake and trying a different approach, the Government continues to cling to its discredited strategy of dishing out sex advice, pills and condoms.
“Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity was ‘doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results'”.
She also raises concerns over the Government’s plans to introduce Sex and Relationships Education as part of the National Curriculum.
She asserts that the high levels of teenage pregnancy are actually caused by “deep-rooted social issues”, including family breakdown.
“Ironically, this collapse of traditional family life has been fuelled by deliberate Government policies, such as the end of tax relief for married couples and the introduction of financial incentives in the welfare system for lone parents.
“For make no mistake: despite what the Government might think, being brought up in a stable, domestic environment is by far the best way a child can learn about the importance of fidelity, restraint and personal responsibility”, she writes.
Prof Almond then exposes the fallacy that the Netherlands has low teenage pregnancy rates because of its explicit approach to sex education.
She says it is actually because Holland supports stable family life and does not ‘celebrate’ having children outside of marriage.
The Professor also points out that divorce rates are much lower in Holland and the Dutch benefits system, “which is generous in other respects, does not reward teenage mothers with large handouts and accommodation”.
Writing in the Daily Mail today columnist Jan Moir also expresses dismay at the failure of the Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.
She comments: “Clearly, at no point did anyone say: ‘Look, young lady, just don’t have sex. It is not appropriate. At your age, it will have awful repercussions and it may wreck your life.'”
The emphasis instead has been, she says, on telling teenagers they can do whatever they want, with taxpayers left to “take care of the inevitable fallout”.
She says contraception has been liberally dished out “like lollipops to schoolchildren both under and over the age of consent”.
Yet, the columnist adds, it hasn’t worked.
“By dint of tacit approval, it seems to have given young people the go-ahead to have sex.
“And the controversial expansion of confidential contraceptive services for girls under the age of 16 – children, I would call them – has not helped, either.”
The Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy aimed to cut the teenage pregnancy rate by 50 per cent in the years between 1998 and 2010.
But the latest figures show only a 13.3 per cent decline over the ten years from 1998 to 2008 despite expenditure of £280 million.
And the real number of teenage conceptions may be masked by the easy availability of the morning-after pill.
Now the Government has promised a ‘new’ plan, Teenage Pregnancy Strategy: Beyond 2010, which involves piloting one-on-one sexual health and contraception consultations.