There are numerous debates raging on contraceptives but one of the most important ones is whether they should be freely available to those under the age of 16. As someone in the medical profession, where do you stand on the argument?
In the UK all contraceptives are provided free and confidentially, even if the patient is under 16 in many circumstances, despite this being the age of consent. This means that parental consent is not required for any form of contraceptive, from condoms to the morning after pill, under current laws. But is this the right approach given the age of consent for sex? For medical professionals it can present something of an ethical dilemma when a person who has autonomy under the age of 16 requests a form of contraceptive.
It’s a doctor’s responsibility to respect their patient’s right to make their own decisions and present them with the advice and information they need to do so. But whichever side of the fence you’re on, there’s an argument.
The argument for contraceptives under the age of 16
One of the many arguments used in favour of giving under 16-year olds contraceptive is that some, particularly the pill, are used for other issues not relating to intercourse, such as regulating periods or treating acne.
As part of the assessment process doctors are required to assess how likely they believe it is that the patient will have sexual intercourse without contraception, placing them at risk of sexually transmitted diseases or an unwanted pregnancy. Some teens asking for contraception are unlikely to change their plans even if they’re denied, therefore denying treatment could lead to pregnancy and would be irresponsible.
Other arguments include a patient’s right to confidentiality and the freedom to choose the protection they want – autonomy.
The argument against contraceptives under the age of 16
Those that don’t want contraceptives to be given to under 16 without consent from their parents focus on the parent’s right to know. As a minor, it can be argued that parents should play a vital role in the decisions their children are making, including medical choices that have the potential to cause side effects.
Others argue that making contraceptives readily available to those under the age of consent will encourage more young teens to make the choice to have sex before they are over 16.
With both sides of the argument in mind, do you think giving patients under the age of 16 contraceptives without parental permission is the right choice?