A recent news article from the Telegraph has highlighted a practice that has begun in schools around the country. Sexual health services have been visiting schools to provide sexual and reproductive education to school children, including offering young teenage girls the choice of having a contraceptive implant. The implants are small, inserted under the skin and protect against pregnancy by the slow release of hormones.
However, parents are criticising the initiative because the girls receiving the implants, under the age of 16, are doing so without their consent and without the parents actually being aware of the procedures. Under guidance for medical professionals, treatment given for under 16-year-olds does not need to be disclosed with the parents of the child. And while they happy their children are showing maturity regarding falling pregnant, they feel that the decision should not be made without their involvement.
Their argument is that the protection of their children should ultimately fall to them, especially in cases where it relates to their health including sexual. One of the parents whose daughters had received an implant without her knowledge agreed that teenagers had the right “to protect themselves” but felt that the right to protect her child had been “taken away from [her]”. Although later confirming she had been proud her daughter had made the choice.
The stand point of the sexual health services is that this initiative is part of the larger campaign to reduce teenage pregnancy. They point out that since these services have been visiting schools, pregnancy rates in teenage groups of dropped by 22 percent with children being individually assessed with regards to their capacity to consent to the implant. While technically a minor surgical procedure, they insist these are performed by qualified personnel.
Both parties seem therefore to have the best intentions regarding the sexual health of the children involved, however they are somewhat failing to come to an understanding with regards to how to implement the care. The medical services have the responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of the teenager, but the parents also have the responsibility to make sure their child is properly informed in the first place.
Which leads to where the child stands in all of this. Teenagers should have the right to decide if they want to have a contraceptive implant, including if that means without their parents knowledge or consent. If they are going to engage in sexual activity, odds are that having some form of protection against falling pregnant will lower the chances of potentially problematic situations later.
However that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be extra guidance or education for them, from both their parents as well as sexual educators. They need to be reminded that contraceptive implants do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases and they will need to use barrier protection like condoms to ensure their safety. It also needs to be stressed that simply by having an implant doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to have intercourse, and that they need to be sure about the physical and emotional consequences of having sex.
The parents and sexual health service providers in this situation need to support each other’s efforts, rather than undermine them. Education provided to the children, as well as contraceptive options, with the ultimate choice falling to the child.
If you would like to know more about contraception, please feel free to visit our contraception section.
Please also feel free to leave comments below on what your thoughts are regarding teenagers receiving contraceptives.