Teenage Pregnancy – More Evidence of a Failing Policy
The latest official figures from the Office of National Statistics (released on 26 May 2005, click here for full details and follow 'Report: Conceptions in England and Wales, 2003' in the left-hand frame) show that in 2003 the rate of pregnancy among under-16 year-olds in England and Wales rose by 1%. During 2003, the number of pregnancies in this age group was 8,076 (equivalent to a rise of 2.5% - the difference between 'rate' and 'number' is an important statistical nicety, e-mail me and I'll explain), equivalent to eight girls in every thousand becoming pregnant. Fifty-seven percent of these pregnancies ended in abortion.
The scale of the failure
While it is true that the pregnancy rate among all teenagers fell during 2003, but only by a mere 1.2%, the under-16’s rate bucked this trend. This cheerless increase is despite the commitment, first made in 1999, by the Blair Government to halve the rate of teenage pregnancy by 2010, and despite the £140m that has been thrown at ‘the problem’. Since the introduction of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, there has been a drop in pregnancy rates from 46.6 per 1,000 girls to just 42.1 – it does not take much political or numerical savvy to reckon that the target of about 23 is never going to be hit by 2010.
Making parents the scapegoats
With the failure of its grandiose policy now clearly in sight, the Government was bound to look around for a scapegoat. And would you Adam and Eve it? This time it is ‘parents’ who are picked on. In the time-honoured fashion of blame-shifting (first performed by our progenitors, as recorded in Genesis 3: 8-13, and practised by every man, woman and child ever since), Beverley Hughes, the Families and Children’s Minister, has declared that the Government had ‘reached a sticking-point’ and can do no more to reduce the UK’s teenage pregnancy rate (the highest in Europe at 4.28 conceptions for every 1,000 girls under 18 years old: five times that of the Netherlands, three times that of France and twice that of Germany) – parents are at fault, and they must now take the initiative, and pull their weight.
She is entirely right, in part. Parents do indeed have a responsibility to nurture and protect their children. Parents do have a duty to educate their children. And parents must be involved in their children’s welfare. But Beverley Hughes is also entirely wrong – parents are not the cause of, nor are they to be blamed for the current predicaments of teenage pregnancy.
And all this scapegoating is a bit rich coming from a Government that has consistently undermined the role of parents by insisting that contraceptives and abortions must be provided for teenagers without either the knowledge or the consent of their parents. Indeed, parents have effectively been sidelined by this Government’s determination to push its ‘safe sex’ campaign. Yet, our poor children have not been ‘safe’ – indeed, they have been harmed by this Government’s attempt at value-free sex education and its incessant ‘pill and condom’ campaign. Our children have been damaged physically, emotionally and spiritually by the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.
And, Beverley Hughes, there is another issue you should have considered before pointing the finger at parents: who picks up the pieces when our children’s lives are shattered by your insidious and permissive ‘safe sex’ campaign? It is certainly not your Government. Of course, it is the parents – those fathers and mothers, who have been conveniently sidelined, until the inevitable collapse of this failed policy occurs and then, if it is not actually the parent’s fault for having a pregnant teenage daughter, it is now, at least, their heavy burden.
The proper way ahead
For several years, many of us have been trying to get the Government to implement the only rational approach to the problems of teenage pregnancy. First, it must involve sex and relationship education within a moral framework. How much ‘sex’ education is required is a debateable question – certainly not the shockingly explicit and perverted extremes that are included in many schools’ current curricula. In addition, a robust moral framework is essential. The Christian model is the standard, with marriage at its centre.
Second, a proper approach must involve the teaching of abstinence. Abstinence has an unquestionable theoretical success in lowering the teenage pregnancy rate – no sex, no pregnancies. Furthermore, there is the growing practical evidence of the success of such a strategy from the US and elsewhere. Yet our Government continues to mock the very idea of this approach. Indeed, Beverley Hughes is adamant that parents will not be encouraged to advocate abstinence. Meanwhile, she continues to insist that the Government ‘has done all the right things.’ But it clearly has not.
So, Her Majesty’s Government, scrap your value-free, ‘if it feels good, do it, preferably with a condom’ approach. Your blinkered, ideologically barmy Teenage Pregnancy Strategy is signally failing. And it is bound to fail. These latest statistics mock your current policy – when will you listen to reason and change it?
[Later this year, the Christian Institute will publish a booklet, entitled The Morning-After Pill – A Disaster for Us All, in which I have explored the issues surrounding teenage pregnancy and the failure of the Government’s strategy. In addition, I have outlined the sensible, ethically-proper approach.]