British Health Dept. Guidelines Spark "Secret Teen Abortion" Debate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 3, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Health Dept. Guidelines Spark "Secret Teen Abortion" Debate

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
August 3, 2004

London, England ( — New guidelines by the British Department of Health have sparked debate once again over secret abortions performed on minors in England.

The new guidelines for medical practitioners recommend that health professionals "establish a rapport" with patients under the age of 16 who are seeking contraceptives. The directive also states that when a minor wishes to have an abortion, but will not involve a parent, another adult should be contacted to provide support.

Pro-life advocates are upset by the new guidelines, which they say fail to protect girls too young to make such a serious decision on their own.

"What worries me is the blanket phrase ‘under-16s,’" said MP Ann Widdecombe. "Surely the parents of 10-year-olds need to know if their children are sexually active, let alone having an

Maureen Smith, mother of 14-year-old Michelle Smith who received an abortion in May without her mother’s consent after speaking with a counselor at her school, said she is "appalled" at the guidelines.

"I am appalled that the Government think a child under 16 is mature enough to make a decision to have a termination alone," Smith told the Daily Mail.

Family planning officials and several of those in Parliament applauded the new guidelines.

Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat member of the Commons Science Committee, has welcomed the new guidelines on ‘secret’ child abortions.

"Doctors have a professional duty to respect the confidentiality of under-16-year-olds where those children are mature enough to understand the consequences of their decisions," said Dr. Evan Harris, a Democrat member of the Commons Science Committee. "A patient’s right to confidentiality must be allowed to override the interests of parents in wanting to participate in any decisions."

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, agreed with Dr. Harris, calling the Department of Health’s announcement "excellent, clear new guidance."

In June members of the UK Life League demonstrated outside Michelle Smith’s high school.

"We carried out this action to register our disgust and outrage at the school facilitating the destruction of a 14-year-old’s baby by abortion recently. We also protested about the fact that the young girl’s mother was not even informed about her daughter’s abortion," the UK Life League said in a written statement.

Maureen Smith has said that her daughter was traumatized by the abortion.

"We’re absolutely horrified as parents that a 14-year-old girl goes out in the morning to school and returns that evening after having aborted a child, with no advice, no parental knowledge, and we just think it’s completely unacceptable," Jim Dowson of the UK Life League said.

"Parents know what is best for their children not some busybody from the Health Authority," the UK Life League added.

Related web sites:
UK Life League –