In a bid to drive down the number of teenage pregnancies a government initiative is being piloted in Southampton in 9 participating schools. Out of the 9 schools 33 teenage girls requested to be with the contraceptive implant.
Just in case you’re not au fait with the implant it is this. A tiny device that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm where it releases the hormone progesterone to prevent pregnancy. The implant can be removed at any time and fertility returns almost immediately to normal. Possible side effects include headaches, nausea, acne, breast tenderness and disrupted periods. But these are also side effects to teenagerdom so who would be able to tell?
I realise my point seems to repeatedly be: ‘we aren’t asking the right questions’ but we aren’t asking the right questions! The question is not ‘should parents have to give consent regarding their daughter having the contraceptive implant?’ If any demographic is deserving of patient confidentiality it is probably teenagers. Either you allow them to go to their doctor in confidence or they don’t go at all.
The interest should lie with the 33 girls who are mature enough to take responsibility. If you are mature enough to discuss contraception with your partner and a healthcare professional then you might be mature enough to have sex.
Dorries insists that the actions of NHS Solent (remember, 33 girls chose to have the implant in this scheme) “… is a violation of parents’ right to protect and nurture their children. It is a surgically invasive procedure being imposed on children without parents’ knowledge.”
What is it that prompted these girls to choose the implant? A 13 year old who chose to get the implant and discuss it with the Daily Mail said if she and her boyfriend ‘felt like having sex’ she now knew she would be ‘OK’. Indicating there’s a lot of fear about sex, but not much access to advice or information. This girl is worried only about pregnancy; she should be concerned about STIs.
It’s worth noting she does not confirm whether or not they are now sexually active. The media and parents should remember contraception is not synonymous with promiscuity; it should be synonymous with responsibility.
The head-teacher at Bitterne Park, one of the participating schools commented that, “Our open and honest approach means that it has been very successful and has taken teen pregnancy to zero.”
So who does responsibility ultimately lie with? Parents, teachers or the teenagers receiving the treatment? As Bitterne Park’s head-teacher says, “‘Parents don’t give children permission to have sex. Schools are no different to medical advice, it has to be completely confidential.” What should we be prioritising? Sex education accompanied with honest contraception advice and provision surely so if your teenage daughter does make any decision then it’s the right choice for her.
Of course designer condoms a la Louis Vuitton could be just the thing to get the kids down with prophylactics. Although if JLS can’t do it, who can? Which even with the girls who have taken the step of having the implant fitted should still insist upon using if they choose to have sex.
Also another disadvantage of the implant is that the area can get infected and require a dose of antibiotics. Making the most important question of all regarding this initiative, what information and follow up care to the participating girls receive?