Should parents be told if their underage child is having sex?
Eileen McCloy from the parents' rights group Not With My Child
"I THINK parents should be told if their children are having sex and the medical profession should be prosecuted if they do not report underage sex.
"Underage sex is physically damaging and psychologically damaging. It's not good for boys or girls. It is harmful to girls' bodies because they are not properly developed yet. Contraception is notoriously unreliable with teenagers because many of them have sex under the influence of drink or drugs and forget to use it. We know that teenagers have sex but that does not mean that as adults we should be encouraging it. The medical profession has taken the right away from parents to know whether their child is on contraception. These are rights for parents to protect their children.
"There is no contraceptive on this earth that is 100% effective. If adults can't always manage it and make mistakes, how can we expect children to? We still have to remind them to wash their necks. They don't do their washing and ironing, they don't cook their own food and they ask for help with their homework. Yet the health profession and others would have us believe that they are responsible enough to be making decisions about having sex.
"If my underage child came to me and said, 'Mum, I've read the Highway Code, now can I drive your car?' he would not be allowed because it would be against the law. Why should it be any different for sex under the age of consent? The legal age for buying cigarettes has been raised to 18. Buying alcohol under 18 is illegal. Yet when it comes to sex, health workers will go behind parents' backs and yet they hold their hands up in amazement at the high number of teenage abortions.
"If your condom fails, get an abortion; if your pill fails, get an abortion; and all of it can be done behind the backs of parents.
"Teenagers shouldn't be punished for this but given guidance, and the best person to do this is a parent. Children need to be told that this is not the best thing for them to do. They have school work and their future careers to consider.
"I would punish the medical profession for failing to tell parents. How dare they? They are aiding and abetting a crime and everyone forgets this. The age of consent was introduced to protect young girls. A lot of teenage girls have boyfriends who are much older. Thirteen-year-old girls are not having sex with 13-year-old boys but with boys who are older than them and that is sexual abuse.
"We should be asking ourselves why are
teenagers having underage sex? Why are they searching for love and
Dr Stuart Scott, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's Scottish GP committee
"IF THERE was a mandatory reporting of underage sex, it would all go underground. These girls would not come and seek help from doctors and other health care professionals, and they would be scared to report a sexually transmitted disease or a pregnancy. The last thing you want is a girl at risk of pregnancy or disease because they are scared to come and ask for the pill or condoms.
"It is very difficult to put in place standard guidelines for this age group because you can have a very mature 15-year-old or a very immature 15-year-old. It's a decision about whether you think the child is at risk, and if you do, you have an obligation to report them appropriately. But if we don't think they are at risk, we don't have an obligation to report them.
"As doctors, we can make them aware of the risks they are putting themselves at with this sort of behaviour and advise them to discuss the issue with their family. All you can do is be supportive because you don't want to scare them away from seeking help.
"There is a big drive to reduce teenage pregnancy. If girls get the idea that if they tell the doctor it will be reported to the police, they are not going to come near us and they will get no support. At the moment, they have a reasonable degree of confidence that if they tell their GP it will be kept confidential, unless they are at risk of harm of being abused, and that's something we don't want to lose.
"In terms of the ages, if you are talking about a 13-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man having sex, it would not be okay. But if it was a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old, well you can get some very immature 17-year-old boys. It's down to whether you as the GP feel it is a consensual relationship and if the girl involved is at risk of abuse.
"In fact, quite often we don't know who the other partner is, because we would not see them as a couple. We would ask about it, but they don't need to tell us the truth. If you've got a good relationship with your patient, it's to their advantage.
"It's not that uncommon that a patient under 16 would come and ask to get put on the pill. The last three times with me it has been a 15-year-old girl coming with her mother. The mothers came along and said they supported their daughters' requests. That puts your mind more at ease because the mother is aware of the relationship and what her daughter is getting up to.
"If a GP was ever to prescribe contraception
for a girl under 16, we would always be encouraging them to tell their
A teenager's view
SARAH, from Edinburgh, lost her virginity to her long-term boyfriend at the age of 15. The couple had been together for eight months and she felt ready to have sex despite being underage. He was also 15. Now, four years later, she has no regrets.
"We met when we were 14 and he showed an interest so we went out. I was 15 when I first had sex and at that age I thought I was in love with him. We met at high school, when he moved to my school. The whole relationship lasted two years. I felt that he was the one and it was right to have sex. I didn't tell my parents or any youth workers. I just felt it was my own business. I was on the pill.
"If the doctor had suggested that this was against the law I would have been quite scared. I would not have been happy at the prospect of being referred to police or social workers. But I told my friends and we talked about it. Most of my friends who were having sex at that time were in stable relationships.
"I think my parents might have been disappointed if they had found out we were having sex.
"I was lucky there were not scares, but I was very, very cautious about not getting pregnant, especially as he was my first and I was so young. We split up when we were 17 because enough was enough. A lot of my friends have relationships they regret, but I am glad about my decision. I have no regrets about my decision to have sex."
4 November 2007