Right of Reply: Mike Willis
Wednesday 20 January 1999
THE REDUCTION in teenage pregnancies is once again top of the agenda in the battle for the health of the nation. The Government has set ambitious targets and health apparatchiks have stormed into action.
Just before Christmas, Boots was wheeled into the vanguard of the teenage- pregnancy-reduction strategy. A teenage drop-in centre was established at a branch in Glasgow. Angry parents picketed the store and a national boycott is in place.
This has done little to deter the Health Trust of Glasgow which now wants to extend the Boots drop-in concept into schools. Their strategy appears to be about providing accessible clinics where sexually active youngsters can obtain contraceptives - which, they believe, will tackle the problem of unwanted teenage pregnancies.
The last 30 years have taught us that this is a flawed strategy: contraceptives fail and the more we encourage teenagers to indulge in "safe sex", the more unwanted pregnancies will result.
The ProLife Alliance has been arguing for a complete reversal of sex education policies. Our starting-point is similar to the development of anti-smoking policies for the young. Under-age sex, like smoking, goes on, but it is bad for your health and in the long term it is better for the teenager if this behaviour is changed.
The incidence of sexually transmitted disease among the young is at record levels. Abstinence programmes in the US have achieved startling results in adapting teenage lifestyles. In Michigan, teenage pregnancy rates have been reduced by 25 per cent. Saying "no" is a strategy well worth developing - perhaps it is just too simple for the so-called health professionals.
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