Teen Abortion ‘Right To Know’ Bid

A bid to allow parents the right to know if girls are having abortions will be launched by a Conservative MP later. Angela Watkinson MP said parents should know if under-16s have an abortion or are given contraception to help them protect their children.

Similar laws in the US are said to have resulted in a 15 to 20% drop in abortion rates for minors.

Last year a mother from Manchester lost her High Court bid to stop girls being given confidential abortion advice. Ms Watkinson argued that the government’s teenage pregnancy strategy was not deterring under-16s from having sex.

“As things stand, many parents have no idea whatsoever that their children are being provided with contraception or abortion,” she said. “The first thing they learn may be when their children are reported to have some form of sexually transmitted disease.”

The Upminster MP will present her Contraception and Abortion (Parental Information) Bill to Parliament on Wednesday.

Seven US states enforced parental involvement laws for abortion in 1984 – now more than 30 enforce them.

Professor David Paton, of Nottingham University, said legal systems requiring parents to be told before an abortion is performed on an under-age girl, had resulted in a drop in pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. He said there was no evidence to suggest that in the US, under-age girls had turned to “back street abortionists” as a result.

The government wants to halve the conception rate in under-18s in England by 2010. Recent Office for National Statistics figures suggest that the overall conception rate in under 18s remained virtually stable from 42,198 in 2004 to 42,187 in 2005. But there has been a 4% rise in the number of under-16s falling pregnant – increasing from 7,615 pregnancies in 2004 to 7,917 in 2005.

Last year Sue Axon, from Manchester, tried to get the law changed on a parent’s right to know if their under-age daughters were being advised on abortion. Mrs Axon said she brought the case because she regretted having an abortion 20 years earlier that had brought her guilt and depression.

But the High Court rejected a review of guidelines that terminations do not need parents’ consent and doctors should respect girls’ confidentiality. Judge Mr Justice Silber said Mrs Axon, or any other parent, had no right to know unless the child decided otherwise.