Is 13 too young to decide if you want an abortion?

Published Tuesday, May 20 2014, 00:01 BST  |  By  |  5 comments
After judge Mr Justice Mostyn ruled that an anonymous 13-year-old girl was 'intelligent enough' to decide if she wanted a termination, we ask if this was the right decision.

Is 13 old enough to decide if you want an abortion?

© Getty Images / Mark Wragg

Is 13 old enough?



Yes says Rachel Halliwell, 45, writer

Ask any 13-year-old girl what happened the last time she tried to get a decent hair salon to colour her hair and she'll probably groan. That's because reputable salons won't do it without permission from Mum first.

Is 13 old enough to decide if you want an abortion?

© Reader's own

Rachel thinks 13-year-olds are babies themselves

Similarly, my local beauty salon refused to pierce my teenage daughter's ears unless I was with her. The law also denies these youngsters the right to get tattoos or buy cigarettes.

Yet, according to Mr Justice Mostyn, a child barely out of primary school has the intellect to make the life-or-death decision over whether or not to abort her unborn child – a choice that would haunt a woman three times her age for years to come.

What kind of world are we raising our daughters in? Right now, it's one where a girl only just in her teens can obtain contraception at the drop of a hat.

They're taught to put condoms on to sex toys. The Pill is handed out to them like Smarties, and implants are stuck in their arms without their parents being informed.

It's all done in the name of reducing teenage pregnancies. Yet these girls are children. Their bodies may be capable of creating new life, but they're little more than babies themselves. And now a High Court judge says a girl who probably can't properly fill a bra yet has the mental capacity to decide whether an abortion is right for her.

All of this erodes the idea that young girls can say no to sex until they are emotionally ready for it – and that a quick fumble behind the scout hut doesn't lead to anything more. Because if the means to avoid pregnancy, let alone end it, are so readily handed over to 13-year-olds, what else are they to think?

No says Shona Sibary, 43, journalist

My 13-year-old daughter has a boyfriend. I'm sure she's kissed him, perhaps even gone further. It's the stuff of nightmares for any mother.

Is 13 old enough to decide if you want an abortion?

© Reader's own

Shona believes 13 is old enough

It's such a precarious age – one moment Annie will be on the trampoline, the next she's plastering on make-up and hoicking up her school skirt.

From one day to the next, she swings from child to woman. God forbid she is having sex. I am trusting, perhaps naively, that she is sensible enough to know she is too young to take this step.

But what if? Kids do stupid things. They make mistakes – we cannot watch them 24 hours a day.

Which is why I support a High Court decision that a pregnant 13-year-old girl is capable of deciding if she wants an abortion. The teenager had been careless to get pregnant but was sensible enough to understand she wasn't ready to start a family.

This combination of maturity and immaturity is what defines teenagers. But refusing this girl the right to choose if she wants an abortion would be robbing her of the rest of her childhood.

I had an abortion at 21. Yes, I have often questioned that decision. But I went on to get married and raise four children in much more stable, suitable circumstances. My regret at that termination is far outweighed by knowing it would have set my life on a path I didn't want.

It is unimaginable how a young girl might feel in the same circumstances. She knows she was reckless. She also accepts she shouldn't have to pay a lifetime's price for it. To me, that is proof enough that she is old enough to make the choice. I would want the same for my daughter.

Is 13 too young to decide if you want an abortion?
YES35.85%
NO64.15%


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