The High Court of London has ruled that girls under the age of 16 can obtain an abortion without the consent of their parents. The ruling comes as the United Kingdom posts the highest rate of adolescent pregnancies in Europe.
Judge Stephen Silber wrote the ruling in the case of Susan Axon, a divorced mother of five, whose 16 year-old daughter is pregnant. Axon went to court in November to contest a law which allows girls under 16 to receive confidential advice on abortion. She had argued that 20 years ago she herself obtained an abortion and that she felt “guilty, ashamed and depressed for many years” and that today she regrets her choice.
Nevertheless, Judge Silber ruled that in forcing a girl to reveal her intention to have an abortion to her parents “she might, by so doing, make a decision that she later regrets or she might seek the assistance of an unqualified abortionist.”
Axon said she was “disappointed” by the verdict and that “having endured the trauma of abortion I brought the case to ensure that medical professionals would not carry out an abortion on one of my daughters without first informing me."
Anne Weyman, director of the Family Planning Association of the United Kingdom, said she was pleased with the ruling. "Compulsory parental notification of their visit would have been a disaster, leading to young people staying away from services and risking unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections".
Public health minister Caroline Flint also welcomed the ruling, saying: "This judgment confirms that our guidance is fully in line with the law.” She did admit that it was “a very difficult issue.”
According to official statistics, there were 185,000 abortions in the UK in 2004. Some 3,760 were obtained by girls under the age of 16.