A GP who issues the morning after Pill to a girl under the age of 16 to ‘stockpile’ will be acting illegally. But Guidance from NICE for GPs and chemists says under-25s — including girls under 16 — should be able to obtain the morning-after Pill more easily, in advance of having sexual intercourse. Despite this, I believe, GPs who do issue emergency contraception without parental consent to under 16s will be acting illegally.
As Nadine Dorries MP told this website:
“I am opposed to it being stockpiled and used as a form of contraception as becoming pregnant is only one consequence of sex. Young girls will use this as a means of contraception which will expose them to the risk of a sexually transmitted disease.”
The general rule is that under 16s need parental consent to receive any medical ‘treatment’. This includes the contraceptive Pill, emergency or otherwise. However, under the case of Gillick a GP can issue the contraception without parental consent if they believe it is in the best interests of the minor and the minor understands the risks involved in the treatment.
Lord Scarman held: “As a matter of Law the parental right to determine whether or not their minor child below the age of sixteen will have medical treatment terminates if and when the child achieves sufficient understanding and intelligence to understand fully what is proposed.” Neither of these conditions are fulfilled in stockpiling the Pill.
If a girl presents to a GP without in fact having had sex and she is therefore not in need of any ‘treatment’, she is not at risk of an unwanted pregnancy at that point. It is not in her best interests to be issued with emergency contraception ‘just in case’ she might partake in illegal sexual activity at some point in the future. Therefore I fail to see how a GP could rely on Gillick if they do prescribe emergency contraception to a girl who is not currently at risk of anything.
Secondly, they cannot in good faith say any underage girl knows the risks and consequences of repeatedly taking the emergency contraceptive Pill. As her risk will change every time she takes it (it becoming riskier that she will be exposed to side effects such as ectopic pregnancies) and the doctor will not be there on hand to explain this each and every time she takes the Pill she cannot assess and understand the risk. So again, he cannot rely on Gillick to say he lawfully proscribed a ‘stockpile’ of emergency contraception.
The idea that underage teenage girls can adequately analyse risk in this fashion is also wrong. Evidence from the US says that balancing of risk is not fully formed until the age of 25. So the Gillick test on this point is nonsense anyway.
There are many other moral and ethical reasons why this is a bad idea: first there is no proof it will reduce teenage conception, but it will increase riskier behaviours therefore exposing teenagers to sexually transmitted disease.
The interesting question is, has a doctor ever refused to prescribe an underage girl any form of contraception either because he determined it is not in her best interests or that she did not understand the nature of the risks involved in the ‘treatment’? My educated guess is that this hardly ever happens.
GPs and sexual health workers were more than willing to prescribe contraception to sexually exploited girls in Rochdale, perhaps prolonging their abuse.
In essence the Gillick test – like the consent to abortion forms – are just box-ticking exercises for GPs. So we have now come to a stage where the State will go behind parents’ backs and encourage underage teenage girls to stockpile emergency contraption exposing them to sexually transmitted disease as well as emotional damage caused by premature sexual activity. And you dear parents, are not even consulted.