Reduce teenage pregnancy with earlier sex education say MSPs
19th June 2013
pregnantMembers of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are pushing for a new national strategy to begin sex education classes for children at a much earlier age as well as calling for children as young as 13 to be provided with free contraception. The proposed plans by the Health and Sport Committee was included in a report following a six-month investigation and would be introduced in Scotland to combat the huge problem of teenage pregnancies, with Scotland having one of the highest rates in Western Europe. The report highlighted an existing strategy whereby condoms are freely available to anybody aged between 13 and 24, in addition to arguing that efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy should be implemented ‘as early as possible, preschool even’ as these are ‘formative years’ which influence their experiences during adolescence and beyond. Approximately seven out of every 1,000 under-16s in Scotland fall pregnant. Rates in the poorest areas are five times higher in comparison to the more prosperous regions, with youngsters in the poorer areas more than twice as likely to not have an abortion. There has been a gradual, small reduction in rates amongst the under-18 and under-20s however. There are no age limits in place at the moment with regards to sex education, leaving it to parents and teachers to consult with one another to decide the best solution. The committee claim this is causing a lack of nationwide consistency and a drastic variance in advice and services across the country. For instance, the Scottish Government is also being urged to reconsider how sex education is taught in Catholic schools after arguments that youngsters especially in the west of Scotland are ‘disadvantaged’ by not being told certain aspects of sex and reproduction. Health committee convener and Labour MSP Duncan McNeill said: “Scotland has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, which has a long-lasting impact on generations of young parents and their children. This is why this committee is calling for a new strategy to tackle teenage pregnancy. Improved access to contraception or better access to high-quality sexual health education won’t in itself tackle our rates of teenage pregnancy. Our committee is confident that implementing this package of measures will bring about the step-change we need to make a real difference.” Sexual health group Brook and the Family Planning Association welcomed the committee’s report, saying: “High-quality sexual relationships education does not encourage young people to become sexually active.”