Justice McGuinness: realist or defeatist?

The Law Reform Commission have proposed allowing teenagers to obtain contraception without their parents’ knowledge. The proposal has been criticised by, amongst others, The Iona Institute, and the National Parents Council, for leaving parents out of the equation and letting down young people.

On the other hand, Law Reform Commission President Judge Catherine McGuinness said those who object to their proposals are being ‘unrealistic’.

Just who is out of touch here? According to the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA), hardly a trenchant advocate of traditional sexual morality, it is a myth that most teens are having sex before the age of consent. According to them, the average age of first sexual intercourse for young people is now 17. It recommends that teenagers delay having sex until they are older.

The CPA also cite research showing a range of negative outcomes which result from early sexual activity. Such sexual activity is more likely, 70 per cent more likely in fact, to result in unplanned pregnancy.

Teenagers who have sex before they are ready are more likely to experience regret, especially girls, and such sexual activity is more likely to result in the transmission of an sexually transmitted disease. All of this, of course, is quite apart from the potential for emotional damage which can be caused by premature sexual activity.

In addition, the CPA research revealed that a third of girls and eight per cent of boys say they have been pressured into having sex.

Research from the UK in one case showed that a particular pilot programme which makes access to contraception easier for teenagers actually increased teen pregnancy. It was found that those on the pilot programme were more than twice as likely to become pregnant as compared with those not on the programme.

Also, doctors have been prescribing contraceptives without their parents’ knowledge for years and Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.

A review of the evidence relating to the Morning After Pill by the British journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, in 2007, concluded that ‘to date, no study has shown that increased access to [’emergency contraception’] reduces unintended pregnancy or abortion rates’.

Given the evidence, we should be encouraging teenagers not to have sex, as the CPA recommends, rather than reinforcing the false belief that most teens are sexually active.

To reiterate, the CPA have called this belief “a myth”. To put it another way, one might say those add to this myth are, perhaps, a little out of touch.