TEENAGE PREGNANCY IN SCOTLAND
Government Review Highlights Society's Ills
Anthony Horan considers the steps being taken by the Scottish Government to 'tackle' teenage pregnancy and looks at society's contribution to the issue
The Scottish Government's Health and Sport Committee has recently been exploring the issue of teenage pregnancy in Scotland and had invited those with an interest in the matter to make written submissions for consideration by the committee. Worryingly, many of those chosen to give evidence before the committee have been delivering a message advocating increased access to the provision of contraception and, most worryingly, termination across Scotland. For instance, a Kirkcaldy high school was recently lauded following the dispensation of over 600 condoms to pupils over a two and a half month period.
Another source of considerable concern is the Scottish Parliament Information Centre briefing which speaks of “conceptions among young women aged under 16.” What is most worrying about this statement is that it assumes under 16’s to be women rather than children. This is a rather bold assertion and one that should surely be shot down in flames as being, at worst, completely abhorrent, and at best, downright ludicrous.
More reassuringly, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) Scotland did highlight in their submission to the committee that “little adherence is being given to the fact that there is a legal age of consent" and that "this sends out a very unhelpful message.” The suggestion by many that children under 16 should have easy access to contraception actually suggests criminal activity is okay provided you use contraception, which is, of course, completely wrong. The government appear to be saying that it is okay for the law to be broken but just be safe while you do it. It’s much like saying it’s absolutely fine, though still illegal, for people to drink and drive or speed at 100mph on a Scottish road, provided they ensure that they wear their seat-belt in the process.
The Scottish Parliament Information Centre briefing also states that “In deprived areas a much larger proportion of teenage pregnancies ended in delivery (71%) than in abortion (29%). In contrast, among the young women living in the least deprived areas 30% of teenage pregnancies ended in delivery and 70% ended in abortion.” These figures are quite incredible, showing a distinct difference in attitude towards pregnancy in deprived and less deprived areas.
In an extremely thinly veiled dig the submission from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board claims that Catholic schools may not be providing “the same high quality level of sexual health and relationship education to children, young people and parents” as non-denominational schools, and that “the outcomes and experiences for children and young people in Curriculum for Excellence under the Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Organiser may not be being fully implemented” in Catholic schools. These claims will, of course, be challenged by the Education representatives of the Catholic Church but the chipping away of faith in Scotland appears to be continuing unabated through the government and now, the health service.
Interestingly, SPUC have suggested that the committee considers “the impact and cost of post-abortion damage to many young women and their families and the risks associated with Emergency Hormonal Contraception and how to reduce the rates of both”. Whether or not this will spur the committee into doing anything about this issue remains to be seen. The cynic in me suggests very little will be done but we should afford them the opportunity to surprise us all.
In a very valid point, the Rape Crisis Centre stated in their submission that “young people are increasingly exposed to sexualising influences through the media and peer group which encourage early sexual activity.” There is certainly a distinctly ‘sexual’ feel to most of what we now see on television and hear on the radio, along with what is reported in the press. Not only are young people being drawn to this culture of sex but, perhaps more fundamentally, their parents are too. It is the setting of this example which means young people are more likely to fall into the trap of the culture of sex before they have even reached the age of consent.
Committee member Mark McDonald MSP has stated that the Committee will continue to work with churches and faith organisations in coming to any decisions and that a report on its findings will be published in May. There is, however, a worrying trend in our society, much of it government driven, towards distribution of contraceptives as a great, honourable deed, deserving of rich applause, and a complacency around abortion which completely devalues the gift of life. There is also a worrying trend of sexualising everything we see, hear and read. The truth, however, is that we are robbing children of the one thing they will never be able to reclaim: their childhood.