Figures released by the department of health
un-der the freedom of information act (FOIA) show that contraceptive injections
were given to 750 girls aged 14 or under in England during a single year.
Contraceptive implants were given to another 150 girls in the same age group.
The data, for the year 2004-05, the latest available, shows that injections were also given to 1,920 15-year-olds, and implants to 290 15-year-olds.
The treatments are being given on the NHS in an attempt to curb the number of teenage pregnancies.
But the new figures are bound to worry parents who often feel helpless about their daughters obtaining contraceptive treatments without their authority – or even their knowledge.
It suggests that the government is losing the battle to encourage responsible sexual behaviour amongst teenagers and raises a question about the potential of side effects of such long-lasting treatments on so many young girls.
Injections of the hormone progestogen prevent conception for up to 12 weeks. Implants, which are inserted under the skin of the upper arm, stops pregnancies for up to three years by releasing the same hormone in the body. But there is concern that such powerful drugs can, for example, reduce bone density
A survey of five hospitals showed last month that girls as young as 13 were receiving contraceptive injections and implants. These latest figures reveal the extent of such treatments for young girls in England.
Although not broken down by younger age groups, they show that the level of these contraceptive treatments were similar the previous year, although they have risen over the last three years. In 2002-03, there were 60 girls aged 14 or under and 100 15-year-olds who received contraceptive implants.
The latest year also saw 7,920 girls aged 14 or under being given the “morning-after” pill in England during the year 2004-05.
Another 16,440 15-year-old girls were also given the pill in that time. The total of 24,360 girls aged under 16 is slightly lower than the previous two years.
However, the data only represents girls making first visits to family planning clinics because it is not collected by the department of health for GP surgeries.
Another version of this article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday.
Campaigners reacted to these figures, released by the department of health under FOIA, by warning that these treatments would encourage promiscuous behaviour and fuel the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Norman Wells, director of family planning and youth concern, said: “Offering contraceptive injections and implants to girls under 16 is to give them a licence to engage in illegal sexual relationships. We cannot think of any other area where the government facilitates law-breaking, or at least sets out to mitigate the consequences of unlawful conduct.”
However, a spokesman for the family planning association said: “These girls will have had consultations and advice from health professionals and this would have been considered the best option for them.”
Which ever side of the debate is right, there is no doubt that it is informed by having the facts in the public domain. This example demonstrates how campaigners can unearth through FOIA basic, and even rather astonishing, facts that highlight an issue.
Comment on this article