- In 2014, 11,048 girls under 18 in England and Wales had legal abortions. Of these, 2,399 were under 16.1 731 of the under 18s were having their second or third abortion.2 In 2013, the estimated number of conceptions among girls under 16 in England and Wales was 4,648. Of these 61.6% were aborted.3 Figures released at the beginning of 2008 found that four out of ten girls in England had had underage sex and the number of boys having underage sex stood at 35%.4
- Teenagers face a barrage of sexualised images in the popular media and are under increasing pressure to become sexually active at an early age.
- Current medical and social work practice, which fails to inform parents if their child becomes pregnant or has an abortion, stems from the Gillick court case in 1985.5 The Law Lords ruled that not only could doctors legally supply contraceptive services to young people under 16 (provided certain conditions were met), but that they must respect any young person’s decision not to inform their parents. Although the Gillick ruling originally referred specifically to contraceptive services it is widely accepted as applying to abortion as well. In fact, the latest Government guidance assumes this to be the case.6 However, it is often overlooked that doctors are able to decide that a child is not ‘Gillick competent’.
- Public policy generally assumes that most teenage children will be sexually active. Rather than discourage this, it seeks to ease their access to any measures which might prevent infection and prevent or abort pregnancy. This only encourages teenage sexual activity by implying that it can be risk free.
- Young teenagers are not sufficiently mature for the physical and emotional burdens of early sexual activity. This is the basis of the age of consent law, which is 16 in the UK.
- Parents have the greatest interest in their child’s health and welfare and the closest personal bonds with them. They should be their first source of counsel on matters of sexual health and its consequences, not cut out of the loop completely. In the event of an unplanned pregnancy, or the emotional consequences of abortion, the child’s parents will usually assume responsibility for providing care and support.
Parents have a God-given authority over their children
In the Bible it is parents who have the responsibility for raising children. Parents have a God-given authority over their children.
The fifth commandment requires a child to honour its father and mother (Exodus 20:12). This was quoted by Jesus and by the Apostle Paul.
Christians ought particularly to be concerned by any proposals which weaken the moral protections for children. Jesus gave a serious warning of judgment against those who cause children to sin (Matthew 18:6). This is an apt warning in these days when children have their innocence stolen from them.
A culture of secrecy in such matters as teenage sexual activity, use of contraceptives and even abortion undermines the family unit by denying parents their rightful involvement in a fundamental area of their child’s welfare.
‘Harm reduction’ policies encourage sinful practice by promising to ease its consequences
Supplying teenage girls with contraception and abortion on demand with no reference to adult guardians is a prime example of the ‘harm reduction’ approach to sexual promiscuity. This practice sends teenagers a clear signal that extra-marital sex is acceptable, normal and consequence-free. But breaking God’s commands always comes at a cost, even with contraception to ‘reduce harm’ and abortion offered as a backstop. No method of contraception is absolutely reliable and none provides absolute protection from sexually-transmitted infections. Nor can harm reduction policies offer any protection from the psychological and emotional damage of early sexual encounters. Instead, this harm reduction approach heightens these dangers by encouraging such a lifestyle among vulnerable young people and offering fast-tracked, secretive abortions as the response to unwanted pregnancies.
Harm reduction policies find no support in the pages of Scripture. Keeping God’s law will always bring benefits and breaking it will ultimately have destructive consequences even if the secular world tries to alleviate or mask them. Read The Christian Institute’s policy statement on ‘harm reduction’.
All sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong and ultimately harmful
The Bible clearly teaches that the only context for sexual activity is within lifelong monogamous marriage – sexual acts before marriage (fornication) are wrong (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 5:27-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 7:2; Hebrews 13:4). Sexual sins are particularly harmful to the individual because “he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18), but they can be forgiven provided there is faith and repentance (1 Corinthians 6:11). The Bible has stern warnings for those who encourage others (especially the young and vulnerable) to sin (Luke 17:1-2; Matthew 18:6-7). This is especially true for sexual sin given its far-reaching consequences.
Abortion at any stage of gestation is wrong
Abortion is the deliberate destruction of a human life (see apologetics on The Sanctity of Life and Abortion sections). Any policy which has the effect of encouraging teenage promiscuity and which promotes abortion for minors as the ‘easy solution’ to a pregnancy (especially without any referral to parents) is indefensible.
Child abuse scandals
The child abuse scandals uncovered between 2010 and 2015 in Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxfordshire shocked the country. Less well known is that the official inquiries highlighted the systematic practice of keeping parents in the dark about what was happening to their children and the consequences of not taking underage sexual activity seriously.
The official Oxfordshire report said: “The law around consent was not properly understood, and the Review finds confusion related to a national culture where children are sexualised at an ever younger age and deemed able to consent to, say, contraception long before they are able legally to have sex. A professional tolerance to knowing young teenagers were having sex with adults seems to have developed.”7
It went on to say that “distraught, desperate and terrified parents were sometimes seen as part of the problem”.8
The Oxfordshire report concluded: “[T]here was…an acceptance of a degree of underage sexual activity that reflects a wider societal reluctance to consider something ‘wrong’. This involves ascribing to young teenagers a degree of self-determining choice which should be respected. This is not altogether surprising when the national guidance [on health] involves an assessment of the child’s ability to give true consent to receiving contraceptive advice or treatment without the involvement of parents. In a nutshell, a child may be judged mature enough to get contraceptives to have sex with an adult at an age when they are deemed in law unable to give consent to the sex itself.”9
The official Rochdale report said: “The drive to reduce teenage pregnancy, whilst commendable in itself, is believed to have contributed to a culture whereby professionals may have become inured to early sexual activity in young teenagers.”10
- There is ample evidence of school nurses, health centres and family planning clinics doling out contraceptives and abortion advice to teenage girls on a massive scale. This can be done entirely without parental knowledge. Emergency contraception was prescribed to girls under 16 on 8,900 occasions in 2014-2015 by reproductive health services. However, this number does not account for the emergency contraception prescribed by GPs.11
- The evidence shows that parental notification laws have worked well in other countries. For example, an academic study found that the law introduced in Texas in 2003 has led to a decrease in teenagers attending family planning clinics but has not led to an increase in underage pregnancies.12
- Any policy which facilitates abortion for girls under 16 is alarming and wrong: all the more so as evidence of the serious long-term physical and psychological consequences of abortion continues to build.13
- 1Abortion Statistics England and Wales: 2014, Department of Health, 9 June 2015, Tables 3b and 4b
- 2Abortion Statistics England and Wales: 2014, Department of Health, 9 June 2015, Table 4b
- 3Conceptions in England and Wales, 2013, ONS, 24 February 2015, page 1 and Figure 4
- 4Telegraph online, 7 January 2008, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1574814/Britain-has-worst-underage-sex-rates.html as at 27 November 2015
- 5Gillick v West Norfolk & Wisbech Area Health Authority and another  3 WLR 830
- 6Best practice guidance for doctors and other health professionals on the provision of advice and treatment to young people under 16 on contraception, sexual and reproductive health, Department of Health, 29 July 2004, page 3. This is supported in more recent NICE guidance (http://cks.nice.org.uk/contraception-assessment#!scenariorecommendation:26, 2012) and the GMC in 2007 (http://www.gmc-uk.org/static/documents/content/0-18_years_-_English_1015.pdf)
- 7Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, Serious Case Review into Child Sexual Exploitation in Oxfordshire: from the experiences of Children, A, B, C, D, E and F, 26 February 2015, para. 1.3
- 8Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, Serious Case Review into Child Sexual Exploitation in Oxfordshire: from the experiences of Children, A, B, C, D, E and F, 26 February 2015, para.8.4
- 9Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, Serious Case Review into Child Sexual Exploitation in Oxfordshire: from the experiences of Children, A, B, C, D, E and F, 26 February 2015, para. 5.23
- 10Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board, The Overview Report of the Serious Case Review in respect of Young People 1,2,3,4,5 & 6, 20 December 2013, para 4.3.46
- 11Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, England – 2014-2015, Health & Social Care Information Centre, 14 October 2015, Table 9a
- 12Girma, S and Paton, D, Does Parental Consent for Birth Control affect Underage Pregnancy Rates? The case of Texas, November 2011
- 13For examples see Lanfranchi, A, Gentles, I and Ring-Cassidy, E, Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women, The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, 2013, pages 112-114, 193 and 274-276 and Cougle, J R, Reardon, D C and Coleman, P K, ‘Depression associated with abortion and childbirth: a long-term analysis of the NLSY cohort’, Medical Science Monitor, 9 (4), 2003, pages 157-164