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Teens may not need parents’ consent

Tony Best

Teens may not need parents’ consent

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A move is under way to give teenagers, even those below the age of consent, access to reproductive health services at clinics without parental involvement.
The Barbados’ Family Planning Association (BFPA) is pushing for the change and if it succeeds, teenagers, some as young as 14 years of age would be able to receive the services in Government clinics, even if the parents aren’t involved.
BFPA’s executive director George Griffith told the SATURDAY?SUN in New York where he attended a United Nations population conference, that births to teenage mothers were on the rise as more and more young people were becoming sexually active at an early age and the country must face up to the reality of teenage sexuality.
“There is one major area, and I know the Minister (of Health Donville Inniss) is giving some consideration to it, and it has to do with the whole question of access to reproductive health services,” he said.“There is an anomaly at the moment where the age of consent in our country is 16 but you become an adult at 18. But before you reach that age, you are not permitted in any of the Government clinics to have reproductive services or any services without parental consent. We believe the time has come to change that because it is creating severe problems for young people and their health.”
Griffith said the BFPA wanted the Gillick competence rule that’s being used in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other developed states to guide health professionals in the provision of services to young people who were not considered adult. 
That rule is used in medical law to decide whether a child under the age of 16 can legally consent to his or her own medical treatment, including access to reproductive health and family planning without parental permission or knowledge.
In the Gillick ruling, Britain’s House of Lords decided that health care professionals acting in good faith could provide services to minors whose parents didn’t have the power to veto treatment.
“Not all young people are going to be able to discuss their health situation with parents and in some cases the parents are at fault,” Griffith added.