This article appears in the February 1999 edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly

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Two mothers, whose daughters died through involvement in under-age sex, want parents to be given back their rights over the upbringing of their children. Failure to follow the medical contra-indications to the prescribing of the pill led to the following tragedies.

Jenny Bacon believes her daughter, Caroline, would be alive today if she had not been prescribed the pill at the age of 14 by a family clinic without her parents' knowledge. The clinic appeared to have ignored Caroline's medical history. Despite telling the doctor she suffered from migraine and there was a history of thrombosis in the family, Caroline was given the Pill. Her mother, having found the Pills, confronted Caroline. It was agreed they should both consult their GP. who merely told Jenny Bacon that she should be proud of her daughter as it was better to be on the pill than pregnant. Six months later Caroline was found lying on her bed having suffered what was initially thought to be an attack of migraine, but, after admission to hospital, was diagnosed as a brain stem thrombosis She lapsed into deep coma for two months. Despite some improvement in the level of coma, it was evident she was completely paralysed, only able to move her eyes. She died a week after her 16th birthday.

lrene Ivison, a physiotherapist, also believes her daughter Fiona would be alive if she had been able to protect her. At 14 Fiona, seduced by a pimp, was lured into sex. Three years later, she was murdered by a vicious 'client' who smashed her head repeatedly on the concrete floor of a car park. Mrs. Ivison was told that, under the redrafted Children Act, which came into operation in 1989 to strengthen joint parental responsibility, neither the police nor Social Services were able to help Fiona, who was also taking drugs, unless she made a specific complaint. The Act gave Fiona, at the age of 14, the right to refuse medical examination.

As a consequence of the tragedies, three mothers, including Mrs. Bacon and Mrs. lvison, have established Parents' Network, an organisation to seek dialogue with government departments on the damaging and costly effects of prescribing contraceptives to children under sixteen, the legal age of consent. 'No contraception without parental consent' is the slogan of the Network. It is pointed out that successive governments have robbed parents of that right. Last year, 85,000 children under 16 obtained contraception from clinics and GPs. With the serious health risk posed by such youthful promiscuity, greater protection in law is needed to uphold the age of consent. It is maintained that, since the Children Act, 1989, 'the competent child' has emerged with independent rights that crush time- honoured parental rights.

That the organisation has struck a deep chord in society is evident from the support it has so quickly received. In 1997 Mrs. Bacon presented a petition containing 11,500 names to the then Prime Minister, John Major, calling for a change in the law to stop doctors prescribing the pill to youngsters without their parents knowledge. It was reported that Tony Blair ordered an inquiry into the death of Caroline after receiving a letter from Mrs. Bacon, but to date nothing further has been heard. A letter will be sent to the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, branding the redrafted Children Act as too liberal and asking for a meeting with the Government's Ministerial Group on the Family which is headed by the Home Secretary.

Deep support for the Network has come from widespread voluntary organisations and Church Leaders. The Guild has given its encouragement; many members are active participants; twenty doctors have offered help. Eleven Catholic Bishops have joined the campaign, together with representatives from the Anglicans, the Presbyterians and the Muslim World League.

Expressions of support can he sent to Mrs. Angela Appleby, 43, Canynge Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 3LH. Tel. 0117 973 0925.

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