Government accused of experimenting on children
18 September 2006
Government accused of experimenting on children London, 18 September 2006 - A leading economist has accused the government of experimenting on children through its policy of free access to morning-after pills. Dr David Paton, professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University Business School, said there had been no research done on the economic effects and health risks of children taking morning-after pills prior to the government deciding to distribute them prescription-free in 2000. In an address to the national conference of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) at the weekend (15 to 17 September), Prof Paton said there was no evidence that the government's strategy was effective in cutting teenage pregnancy numbers. Speaking to the conference held at Swanwick, Derbyshire, Prof Paton told delegates the Labour government had not learnt from the previous Conservative government's strategy of greater access to birth control services under the 1992 Health of the Nation initiative. "Things [successive governments] have been doing for 30 years have achieved nothing," Prof Paton said. "The policy initiatives have not worked." He added: "The morning after pill was going to be the great answer to unwanted pregnancies. In England since 2000 some local authorities have provided emergency birth control for all ages free of charge. By the end of 2004 about half of local authorities had instigated this policy." There was little evidence of the pills' side effects. "It was an experiment; an experiment on your children," he said. Dr Paton told delegates that greater access to the morning-after pill actually appeared to lead to an increase in the rate of sexually transmitted infections, and there was no evidence that the government's policy was reducing teenage pregnancy rates. He attacked the Teenage Pregnancy Unit for publicly rejecting abstinence education and appealed to the government to look at the successes of abstinence strategies in the United States. He also suggested the government look to the United States where "fantastic" research had shown the effectiveness of parental notification laws in reducing pregnancy numbers and cutting abortion rates by up to 20%. Another speaker at the conference branded the European Union as "the biggest threat to life" and predicted it would move to allow euthanasia. Kathy Sinnott, independent MEP for Ireland south, described the EU as a "legislative factory". She said that, in 2060, a third of Europeans would be over 65. "Young children born today will have to pay for themselves, their pension scheme, one pensioner each and their dependants. In this debate no one mentions euthanasia, but everyone knows this is the way the EU is going to go," she said. Mrs Sinnott, who was elected in 2004, said the proposed European constitution was not "life respecting." A leading bioethicist from Australia said countries which allowed legal abortions were acting against international law which protects all human life, including the unborn. A spokesperson for SPUC cited numerous clauses from United Nations documents which give legal protection to children before as well as after birth, saying: "There is a universal agreement that all members of the human family have an inherent dignity with the most important right being the right to life." Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, a leading Christian woman's lobbying group, told the conference about her experiences of being arrested and jailed for simply praying outside abortion clinics during the 1990s. Ms Wright has been listed as one of the 100 most influential women in Washington. There is a real possibility the Mental Capacity Act 2005 will lead to cases of death by omission when it comes into force next year, an expert consultant physician said. Dr Philip Howard described the act as a very badly drafted piece of legislation. He said that attorneys appointed to make medical decisions on someone's behalf may well override doctors' advice on the provision of treatment. More than 200 attended the national conference from places as far apart as Dundee and Cornwall. There were several disabled delegates, and the age range varied from five months to aged 94.