Pregnant schoolgirl given right to choose
May 10, 2014
London: A pregnant schoolgirl was Saturday given the right to choose whether to have an abortion by a High Court judge.
Even though the mother-to-be is just 13, Justice Mostyn ruled that she was capable of making up her own mind as to whether or not to keep the child.
The teenager, who lives with her parents, only realised she was pregnant when her grandmother spotted her growing bump and took her for medical tests.
The schoolgirl — who can be identified only as ‘A’ — is believed to have thought she had been gaining a little weight for other reasons.
A scan at a local hospital confirmed she was pregnant but the devastated girl said she was not ready to start a family at such a young age and wanted to have a termination.
The girl was 21 weeks’ pregnant when the case went before the High Court as an emergency hearing in mid-March. The local authority, which is in the North of England, was forced to seek a declaration that the child had the capacity to make the abortion decision herself.
This was required to ensure that doctors and hospital trusts could not be sued if they carried out the medical procedure.
If the girl was not capable of fully understanding the situation, the local authority would be allowed to terminate the pregnancy if doctors believed it was in her best interests.
Making public his ruling Saturday, the judge said the law allowed a child aged under 16 to be given contraception if they had “sufficient understanding and intelligence”.
He said this was the case even if it might lead her to take steps “wholly contrary to her best interests”.
He said girl A was interviewed by a consultant psychiatrist who concluded very clearly that she had “a very clear understanding of her position and of the options that were available to her. Those options namely continuance of the pregnancy, or its termination, were discussed.”
The psychiatrist said that although A was “softly spoken” she was able to explain to him that her wish was to terminate the pregnancy as “she felt that she could not cope with its continuance and it would stress her to a considerable degree”.
He said the decision to have an abortion was not the result of pressure from her parents and grandmother.
The psychiatrist said the choice was “hers alone and not the product of influence by adults in her family”. The judge said he was “completely satisfied” that A had the mental capacity to decide whether or not to have an abortion.
He said her present intention was to have a termination and that her family would be by her side “to assist her and support her after what is inevitably going to be an unpleasant and traumatic experience”.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 5,432 under-16s fell pregnant in 2012, down 9 per cent on the year before.
But the toll is still far higher than the average for developed countries including France, Germany and Japan.
The health advisory body, NICE, has called for free condoms to be readily handed out at schools, sixth form colleges and youth clubs to cut teen pregnancy rates.
Girls as young as 13 have been given contraceptive implants at school without their parents’ knowledge. Nurses insert devices into their arms which temporarily prevent pregnancy by releasing hormones into the blood.
Some 1,700 girls of 13 and 14 were fitted with implants in 2010/11, while 800 had injections which have the same effect. The 2010/11 NHS figures also show 3,200 15-year-old girls were fitted with implants, and 1,700 had injections.
But under strict “patient confidentiality” rules, staff are banned from seeking the permission of parents beforehand — or even informing them afterwards.