Children as young as 12 are being given contraceptive implants by government health boards in Scotland, many without their parents’ knowledge, raising concerns over their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.
The drugs have not been tested on minors, and the long term health effects of using these drugs on children are not known. But still almost 3,500 minors have received the long term contraceptive implant since 2010, the Daily Mail today reported.
The manufacturer, MSD, has confirmed that the “safety and efficacy in adolescents under the age of 18 has not been established”.
A Freedom of Information Act request established that 3,562 implants were prescribed to under 16s between 2010 and 2014. Greater Glasgow and Clyde issued the most, fitting 1,523 of the implants; the other four health boards were Grampian, who fitted 397, Ayrshire and Arran, 382, Lanarkshire, 291 and Borders, 131. However, five other boards including NHS Lothian refused to release full details so the true figures may be much higher.
At least 20 of the implants were given to 12 year olds across those five boards, despite side effects being common amongst adults who use them.
The plastic implants are inserted in an arm just under the skin, and work by releasing progesterone to prevent pregnancy. They last for up to three years, and can be inserted by nurses or doctors.
“To provide schoolgirls with long-acting reversible contraception is to play with fire,” said Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust.
“It is effectively giving them a licence to engage in illegal sexual activity and denies them the protection that the law on the age of consent is intended to give.
“Not only does prescribing the drugs to underage girls make it more difficult for them to resist sexual pressure from their peers, but it also makes them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by older sexual predators.’
“It is deeply disturbing that parents are frequently left in the dark and know nothing about the high-stakes gamble being taken on the physical and emotional well-being of their daughters.”
Patricia McKeever, editor of the Catholic Truth newsletter, highlighted the hypocrisy of the state, saying: “This is child abuse. I am not a medical person but it cannot possibly be helpful. Parents need to be more vigilant – you cannot trust the state with your children.
“It is hypocritical of the Government to say they want to protect children from abuse in the home and then at the same time they are setting them up to be abused.”
Last February the Scottish Parliament passed the Children and Young People Act, which legislates for every child in Scotland to be appointed a state guardian to safeguard their interests and oversee their safety. The guardians have legal authority to access information from the local council, the police, the NHS and so on.
In 2010, Highland Council piloted the scheme and since that date have designated a remarkable 8,000 children to a “child’s plan”, suggesting that many thousands of families are having their privacy invaded.
Commenting on the new law, Emma Carr from Big Brother Watch wrote “Resources should be focused on those families in genuine need and on those children in real danger. As soon as you create an army of guardians they are going to have to justify their positions and that will mean more paperwork, more intrusion and more families being treated as suspects when they have done nothing wrong.”
Christian groups were again vocal in their belief that families, not the state should be granted responsibility for their own children, with a spokesman from the Church of Scotland saying “The concept of a named person diminishes the role of parents, with no obvious benefit for the most vulnerable in society, a point we have consistently made in our responses to the Scottish Government and to the Parliament’s Education Committee.”