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Ed Balls contradicts health department report on teenage pregnancies

12 June 2009

Ed Balls contradicts health department report on teenage pregnancies London, 12 June 2009 - A cabinet minister has contradicted a government report by claiming that teenage pregnancies "have come down substantially" nationally.

Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, schools and families, made the comments as he announced that his department is helping fund a Birmingham school to open its own centre offering "a full range of sexual health services".

The department of health's annual report, published today, admits that "the most recent quarterly data from 2007 indicates a worrying reversal of this downward trend." It also admits that more teenage pregnancies are ending in abortion.

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), commented: "Mr Balls, the minister for one department, has contradicted another department in making this claim, and at the same time he has contradicted academic research and official health data. Mr Balls should retract his claim immediately. The latest data shows that, with respect to under-16s, pregnancy and abortion rates are actually higher now than when the government's teenage pregnancy strategy was published in 1999. The records show that the number of teenage pregnancies had already started falling before the strategy began; and the rate of decrease started to slow once the strategy began to be implemented on the ground. "Mr Balls should also retract his claim that "The places where we have got teenage pregnancies down faster are where you've had a much closer working of schools and health services." In fact the Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) has published data showing that the region with the lowest rate of under-18 conceptions (32.8 per 1000 girls) - which also had the lowest abortion rate (14.8 per 1000 girls) - was the East of England. The APHO report also found that when questioned, East of England school children were the least likely to say they relied on schools for sex information and the least likely to know about local sexual health services. This region also had the fewest young women approaching family planning clinics for contraception. "Academic studies indicate that abstinence-promotion, parental involvement, higher general educational standards and improved social conditions reduce teenage pregnancies. Professor David Paton of Nottingham university has argued this convincingly in published research. "The contradiction between Mr Balls and the department of health, as well as the government's increasingly radical gimmicks, is yet further evidence that the government's strategy is in disarray. It should be scrapped immediately." Mr Balls's comments are reported in today's Birmingham Post at The department of health's annual report can be read online at The relevant section on teenage pregnancy is paragraph 13.60 on page 189 of the report (page 196 of the PDF)

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