25.03.2015

Laws on teenage pregnancy uk

The Committee has considered the relationship between teenage pregnancy and poverty, examined the challenges to change in our most deprived communities, asked whether services are being effectively delivered, and tried to highlight those initiatives well regarded but perhaps unsung. The Minister for Public Health said he wishes to see more shared ventures between health boards and local authorities in order to tackle teenage pregnancy across Scotland. Scotland has a higher rate of teenage pregnancy than most other western European countries. The Committee recognises that for some young people, teenage parenthood is a positive experience, whether planned or not.
The Committee agreed to conduct an inquiry into teenage pregnancy due to concern about the continuing high rates of teenage pregnancy in Scotland.
At the outset of this report, the Committee wishes to emphasise that not all teenage pregnancies are problematic. Evidence received from teenage mothers consulted by the Fife Gingerbread Project suggested that, in social terms, being a teenage parent was not necessarily a bad thing either.
Although the Committee heard about a number of positive outcomes from teenage pregnancies, the Committee also heard that there can be significant negative outcomes. It is these negative outcomes of teenage pregnancies which the Committee is particularly interested in examining in this report. In policy terms, the main concern has been with reducing pregnancy rates among young women aged under 16 years.
There has, however, been a small but consistent decline in teenage pregnancy among the under 18 and under 20 age groups. The Committee welcomes the positive progress made in reducing rates of teenage pregnancy in the under 18s and under 20 age group. The Committee understands that the pregnancy rate in the under 16 age group is particularly challenging to address.
The Committee heard evidence about a number of specific social and economic factors, associated with inequality, which could be contributory factors in a higher rate of teenage pregnancy.
One of the most important factors associated with a higher rate of teenage pregnancy is deprivation. The Committee also received evidence that young women living in the most deprived areas were far more likely to take a pregnancy to delivery, while those young women living in the least deprived areas were far more likely to end a pregnancy through termination.
Of the total number of pregnancies among young women aged under 20 in 2010 living in the most deprived areas (a total of 2,949 pregnancies), a much larger proportion of those pregnancies ended in delivery (71 per cent) than in abortion (29 per cent). A second contributory factor to a higher rate of teenage pregnancy is being a member of a vulnerable group. Another vulnerable group particularly prone to a higher rate of teenage pregnancy was young people who had been subject to abuse. A third factor that can be linked to a higher rate of teenage pregnancy is low self-esteem. It was suggested that a lack of self-esteem could result in ambivalence towards becoming pregnant. For many, the close association between teenage pregnancy and self-esteem meant that tackling teenage pregnancy involved raising the aspirations of young people and providing opportunities beyond parenthood.


Addressing attitudes in some communities where there was a more positive or more enabling attitude towards teenage parenthood was seen as a challenge. The Committee heard that there was some debate as to whether there was an association between teenage pregnancy and access to social housing.
The majority of evidence received by the Committee, however, suggested that teenage pregnancy was not seen as a short cut to social housing. The Committee heard that another contributing factor to a high rate of teenage pregnancy was risk taking behaviours, in particular alcohol and drug misuse. Many witnesses pointed to the increasing sexualisation of society as contributing to teenage pregnancy. The Committee has discussed above some of the factors which can impact on rates of teenage pregnancy.
However, many of the factors that have been identified in this report as being associated with high rates of teenage pregnancy are also understood and accepted to be factors associated with inequalities more widely.
The Committee considers that teenage pregnancy needs to be recognised as a symptom rather than a condition within the wider socio-economic context. The Committee believes, therefore, that that any action taken to reduce teenage pregnancy, for example to address any of the individual contributory factors, also needs to recognise the fundamental structural issues and the need for broader, cross-cutting efforts to address them. This section of the report considers the current policies to address rates of unplanned teenage pregnancy. There is also a recognition in the Framework, mirrored throughout the evidence taken by the Committee, that poor sexual health and high levels of teenage pregnancies are symptomatic of wider health inequalities. The Committee also heard about a number of positive examples of initiatives and services being delivered by NHS Boards, local authorities and voluntary organisations that were specifically targeted in the area of sexual health and teenage pregnancy.
The Committee also received information about the Fife Gingerbread project, set up in 2009 to provide support specifically to teenage parents in the Levenmouth area.
Finally, the Committee received evidence of specific examples targeted at supporting young parents to remain in or to return to education following pregnancy. As discussed earlier in this report, the issue of teenage pregnancy needs to be considered within the wider context of health inequalities. The Committee explored with witnesses what was being done at this wider policy level to reduce health inequalities, which could, in turn, lead to reduced rates of teenage pregnancy. The Committee heard evidence of targeted work to reduce health inequalities with some of the groups more vulnerable to teenage pregnancy.
As mentioned previously, those excluded from school are more vulnerable to teenage pregnancy. Tracey Stewart of Dundee City Council told the Committee that partners were trying collectively, in Dundee, to reduce teenage pregnancy. The Committee has set out above some of the progress that has been made on the provision of services specifically targeted in the area of sexual health and teenage pregnancy.
The Committee heard some concerns regarding the fact that teenage pregnancy was sometimes treated as a purely health issue, rather than being viewed in a wider policy context. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde believed that including teenage pregnancy within a policy that relates to sexual health risks reinforced a notion that teenage pregnancy was purely a sexual health issue rather than one related to socio-economic deprivation and inequality.


It wished to investigate the statistics within the wider context, taking into account the multiple associations between teenage pregnancy and inequalities. The first strand has been to assess whether the action being taken in Scotland is sufficient to bring about real and sustained reductions in unplanned teenage pregnancy.
The Committee witnessed the good work of teenage parents first hand during the course of the inquiry. Whilst disappointed that the Scottish Government has missed its target for rates of pregnancy in the under 16s, the Committee notes that it has only been missed by a narrow margin. The statistical data presented to the Committee showed a clear relationship between deprivation and high rates of teenage pregnancy.
Scotland told the Committee that looked-after children experienced considerable educational disadvantage and poorer outcomes than their peers and that participation in education was a known protective factor in reducing teenage pregnancy rates.31 This point was also raised in relation to other young people excluded from school. A commonly expressed view was that the link between deprivation and teenage pregnancy was the result of low aspirations and limited opportunities for young women. Teenage girls having a fatalistic attitude towards pregnancy was raised by Felicity Sung, National Co-ordinator, Sexual Health and HIV, Scottish Government. Ann Eriksen of NHS Tayside told the Committee that professionals in Tayside had not felt that access to accommodation was a factor associated with teenage pregnancy. Children 1ST told the Committee that it knew from its services that teenage pregnancies were more prevalent where there was evidence of alcohol or drug misuse. Ultimately, addressing teenage pregnancy requires the wider inequalities within society to be addressed.
There is a huge range of social and economic factors associated with inequality that can be contributing factors to higher rates of teenage pregnancy.
The Committee believes, therefore, that addressing these health inequalities will contribute to a reduction in rates of teenage pregnancy. This brings together the range of current evidence and advice on the partnerships, strategies and interventions that need to be in place locally if teenage pregnancy rates are to be reduced. However, as discussed earlier in this report, the cause and effect pathways leading to issues such as teenage pregnancy are strongly influenced by the adverse social, economic or environmental circumstance in which those affected live. The Committee has also highlighted some examples of wider policy and practice approaches which are also contributing to tackling the issue of teenage pregnancy and the support available to young parents. The second strand has considered what further action might be required to ensure that those young people at risk of pregnancy at a young age, or who have had a baby when they were very young, are able to gain access to appropriate support and services.3 These strands are explored within the content of the report. The Framework argues that, by reviewing this evidence and using the Self-assessment tool annually, local authorities and their partners can build on existing good practice to address teenage pregnancy in the long term.



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