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Cross-party inquiry into unwanted pregnancy: your views?

(169 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 13-Sep-12 12:18:09

Hello,

We've been asked by Conservative MP Amber Rudd to contribute to a cross-party inquiry into the factors underlying unwanted pregnancies in the UK, and ways in which the unwanted pregnancy rate might be brought down. (Other members of the Inquiry include Labour MP Sandra Osborne and LibDem MP Lorely Burt.)

The background information from the Inquiry states: 'Over the last decade, the age-standardised abortion rate has risen by 2.3 per cent. Beneath this statistic are some striking trends. For example, the abortion rate for women in the 30-34 age group has risen by around 10 per cent in the past three years, which is in stark contrast to other countries like New Zealand, where the rate has decreased by 5 per cent over the same period. Repeat abortions have also increased over the past decade, rising from 31 per cent in 2001 to 36 per cent in 2011. Although unwanted pregnancies in teenagers have been steadily declining over the past decade, the UK also remains home to the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe.'

The Inquiry is interested in hearing your views on the following:

1) The issue of unwanted pregnancy in the UK.
2) The figures suggest that there are increasing rates of abortions among some age groups in the UK, increasing rates of repeat abortions, and high levels of teenage pregnancy. What are the underlying reasons for these trends? And what role (if any) does government have in tackling them?
3) What lessons can be learned from previous attempts to tackle unwanted pregnancies?
4) Are there any measures the government should be implementing to tackle unwanted pregnancy?

Plus, of course, anything else you want to say.

Thanks,
MNHQ

RTchoke Fri 14-Sep-12 09:48:51

I think I remember reading that not only has the rate of abortion in the 30-34 age group risen but so has the rate of abortions within marriage. I suspect that this is partly due to the cost of living in the UK. To support children it is often necessary for both parents to work and this mitigates against large families and years of childcare costs. I also think career women can "get away" with one or two pregnancies and maternity leaves but after that employers take a dim view. My employer told me that if I went on to have a third child I would be sending a signal that I no longer took my career seriously.

Treats Fri 14-Sep-12 09:57:44

Agree with RTChoke - the cost of childcare in particular and the cost of living in general is a massive factor. For a lot of families, having another child would mean being forced into poverty.

For teenagers, I think there's a lot of pressure on young girls to have sex - everywhere they turn they're exhorted to look sexy, to be attractive to boys. There aren't enough counter-influences to provide them with alternative ways of feeling good about themselves.

Startailoforangeandgold Fri 14-Sep-12 10:10:53

A third child, certainly with an appreciable age gap would have seriously affected my existing DCs.
There simply wouldn't be the time or money or space in the house for them to enjoy the life style they do at present.

Minstrelsaremarvellous Fri 14-Sep-12 10:28:13

While I would love a third DC, it would seriously affect the choices we make as a family. House, Car type, holiday destinations/types, my career just to start. While I'm actively using contraception a girlfriend of mine took the morning after pill this week as a condom split. She can't afford a third for similar reasons. Many of my girlfriends are giving up work totally as their salaries don't cover childcare costs for 2 children let alone 3. What a loss to UK industry.
If I were to get pregnant now it would be an impossibly difficult decision for me whether to keep the baby or not.

TunipTheVegemal Fri 14-Sep-12 10:34:07

I think RTChoke and others are right - it's the cost of living and cost of childcare coupled with the crazy house prices and hence very overcrowded conditions many young families are living in at the moment. If you're already squeezed into a small house or flat but are already stretching yourself to pay the mortgage or rent, you know there's no way you can afford to trade up to a bigger place so a pregnancy which you might otherwise have been able to continue becomes a real problem.

Among teenagers, the fact that young men are getting their sex education from porn, and porn does not involve contraception (cf this article by Gail Dines here - her main concern is the risks to the performers but the image it projects of what constitutes 'normal' sex is also a problem) is probably a big factor. Girls are not stupid, they know about contraception and it is not difficult or expensive to get hold of condoms, but if they are placed in a situation where the culture is to not use them it will naturally be harder for them to insist.

TunipTheVegemal Fri 14-Sep-12 10:38:27

And re employment - yes, as others have said, you have to earn a LOT to cover childcare for 3 children. I had a well-paid job (as a university lecturer) but 3 lots of childcare would have cost more than I earned. I can quite see why someone in that position, becoming pregnant accidentally, might feel they had to terminate if they couldn't afford to keep working with 3 children and also couldn't afford or didn't want to lose their career.

SuperB0F Fri 14-Sep-12 10:52:10

I would say that life is so shit under the Tories, people have serious doubts about putting another child through it, or making things even more difficult for themselves.

Basically, it's your fault, Tories, not ours.

JammySplodger Fri 14-Sep-12 11:19:23

We could not afford a third child, we only just get by with two. And I want to get my life / career back. We both have professional, quite specialised careers and have moved with our jobs - I think greater geographical mobilty and less day-to-day support from extended families and might contribute to descisions, it would in our case anyway.

NoKnownAllergies Fri 14-Sep-12 11:49:03

Whilst contraception may be free, access to the services that prescribe these can be difficult. I wanted a coil fitted whilst we were waiting for counselling to have a vasectomy etc. The clinic only ran fortnightly for 2 hours in the whole borough AND you needed a pre-booked appointment. There were NO appointments for the next 3 session so all in all a 9 week wait from my first contact. Coupled with the phone number being constantly engaged and only open during clinic hours.

Tee2072 Fri 14-Sep-12 12:09:45

There are many many reasons why I will only ever have one child, but certainly one of those reasons is the cost of childcare.

I work for myself, but still need someone to look after my son so I can, you know, work. I can and do work evenings and weekends, but I need to also be available during work hours for my clients. Impossible with a child around.

He starts pre-school this month and that will help, but still need to pay a childminder for 2 afternoons a week since 3 hours a day of free preschool really isn't enough time for me to really work.

sleepyhead Fri 14-Sep-12 12:18:39

I agree with previous posters about the cost of raising a child and working.

I'm pregnant with a very, very, very much wanted baby who will be our second child. I've not had a scan yet, and if it turn out to be twins we're completely screwed. Our salaries won't cover 3 lots of childcare and we can't afford for one of us to stay at home. We'd work it out somehow obviously, but I could see why this would be a reason for terminating an unexpected pregnancy when things are already stretched to breaking point financially.

I know a lot of families who have stopped at one for this reason, and if I was to follow my head and not my heart, we would have stopped at one as well.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 14-Sep-12 12:35:04

Can you ask if they have read Caitlin Moran's account of her abortion, and the thread on here (I think it was GOML's) re not feeling bad about abortion?

Is their concern about contraceptive services?

crackcrackcrak Fri 14-Sep-12 12:49:14

Re question 2. They need to take into account that a disproportionately high level of teenage (and v young adult) pregnancies occur in the care leavers group. There are complicated reasons for this which are somewhat different to non care leaver females though there are of course some common themes.

Why are they worrying about abortions full stop? The fact all these women are able to access them is a good thing. I belief abortion is the right decision if a child isn't wanted 100% and I think it takes a lot of courage and selflessness to have one.

marshmallowpies Fri 14-Sep-12 13:23:34

There was another thread on here recently which touched on the difficulty of getting sterilisation once your family was complete - posters were commenting that attitude from doctors seems to be that it's an unnecessary operation, therefore a strain on the NHS, when you could be using contraception.

Personally I wouldn't want to go on hormonal contraception again as I don't like the way it makes me feel (or rather not feel!) and the coil sounds so painful...so DH and I use condoms only, with the risk that entails.

Can't comment on the teenage pregnancy issue as things seem so different from my school days when we had Cosmo & Position of the Fortnight in more!, but no camera phones. The idea that 14 year olds film themselves, or are coerced into doing it, at an age when I was still in the Girl Guides horrifies me...but I can't say how to fix it. I've no idea. I wish I did!

MmeLindor Fri 14-Sep-12 13:25:07

I agree with everyone else.

Child care costs are a huge factor in UK. We lived in Germany when our children were younger and paid around €300 for both children to go to full time Kindergarten, from the age of 3 to 6 years. Under 3yo childcare was considerably more expensive but nothing like as ridiculous as the prices in UK. There are reduced rates for second and subsequent children, and for those on low income.

Combined with house prices being very high, and the banks being unwilling to lend without a large deposit, many families are stuck in expensive, dodgy and insecure rented accommodation. Finding cheap yet secure (as in not being chucked out at a couple of month's notice) housing is very difficult. There are next to no local housing /council housing homes to be found.

To feel happy about having another child, families need:

- job security
- financial security
- housing security

At present many families do not have this, and an unwanted pregnancy shoves them from just-getting-by into poverty.

AdiVic Fri 14-Sep-12 13:25:58

I had a termination a few years ago as we could not afford it. I was not eligible for benefits (which didn't bother me) and we would not have been able to afford childcare and pay the mortgage as my earnings would not cover the nursery fees. I have 2 children now and if i WERE to get Pregnant, which I have taken steps not to, I would have to terminate as we cannot afford, even now. I will NOT be getting pregnant.

When I was at school (Private which was stricter) we were told in no uncertain terms that getting pregnant was NOT acceptable. We were told basically our lives would be ruined, we would not be able to get a decent job, partner and so on. All that might sound quite harsh, but it did the job. There we NO pregnancies in our school. We were also told that anybody taking part in any sexual act would be expelled on the spot. It was made very clear sex was what you did in a long term loving partnership and we were too young for such carry ons. Today it seems teenagers are expected to sleep around a bit, and they have the right to a sexual relationship.

I also blame the media/music, which promotes an overly sexualised culture, and especially to young women that to look sexy and be sexually active is some way glamorous and empowering.

When I was 16, 20 years ago, my friends and I wanted to be vets, Doctors, Lawyers etc, now girls just seem to want to be sexy and famous.

I think society is too lax and tolerant of low standards. Programmes such as TOWIE seem to promotes fake boobs and stupidity as the way forward.

I would also bring back more physical education/sports, burn some energy off that way!

I wonder if our lack of self respect as a nation plays a part. How can a young girl feel loved and special? By having sex?? By being wanted and needed by someone? If we instilled pride and self respect into youngsters, they may have more pride and not fling themselves at anyone who flatters them.

Also, not dishing out benefits to youngsters who get pregnant? If benefits were only available to 18 + and making the parents of the girls/lads pay might see a drop?

Sorry, I sound quite old and fuddy duddy in my ideas.

sleepyhead Fri 14-Sep-12 13:46:37

AdiVic, you seem to have a high regard for the ability of the average teenager to take the consequences of their actions into account.

It would seem to me that your plan to cut benefits for under 18s would be an excellent way to push up the abortion rate in this age group (which the op says has been steadily declining up to now).

crackcrackcrak Fri 14-Sep-12 13:49:05

Some brilliant comments here. The sterilisation thing is a huge issue! It should be at least as easy as it is to get an abortion to get sterilise and more so if you have children already. I heard thru won't do it under 30? But what if you have 3 kids? What's the problem?

I think they should do a campaign with all the amazing female athletes from the Olympics to promote female independence and self respect etc I think it could work well grin

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Sep-12 13:51:26

Hello - thanks very much for the responses so far.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch

Can you ask if they have read Caitlin Moran's account of her abortion, and the thread on here (I think it was GOML's) re not feeling bad about abortion?

Is their concern about contraceptive services?

Yes, I think that's part of it; aside from the issue of how family income affects people's decisions about whether to continue with an unplanned pregnancy, I think they're trying to get at the underlying reasons for (apparently) an increasing number of women experiencing unwanted pregnancy in the first place. (Although I do appreciate that these issues are interlinked, and it's an interesting perspective on the situation.)

I suspect their starting position (and I stress that this is a guess!) is that however pro-choice you are (and Amber Rudd has, I think, a fairly solid pro-choice record), contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy is preferable to termination. If you accept that premise (you may, of course, disagree!), then the question is - why do an apparently increasing number of women not successfully contracept? Are there factors that are preventing that?

sleepyhead Fri 14-Sep-12 13:58:09

No contraception is 100%, it's just not. In a world where every couple who doesn't want to get pregnant uses contraception, exactly as the manufacturer recommends, every time they have sex there will still be pregnancies.

Off the top of my head I think the combined pill it's 99% effective over a year? So that's 1 pregnancy per 100 couples. Condoms (I think) are 97%, so 3 pregnancies per 100 couples per year when used in ideal circumstances.

Ideal circumstances tend not to reflect real life so obviously the failure rate is much higher.

What evidence do they have that it's contraception failure, or reduction in contraception use that is causing the rise in abortion? Particularly when it's in certain age groups and not across the board? It just feels terribly unlikely to me that 30 somethings have become less likely to use contraception than their 20 something counterparts.

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Fri 14-Sep-12 13:59:08

"why do an apparently increasing number of women not successfully contracept? Are there factors that are preventing that? "

I don't think they are failing to. Even when used correctly, contraception is not 100% reliable, so there will always be 'accidents'. I think the difference is that whereas 10 or 20 years ago couples would often think, 'it's ok, we can cope with one more', now the pressure of work, combined with the high cost of childcare and rent/mortgages leaves more and more people feeling that they just can't realistically do that.

SittingBull Fri 14-Sep-12 13:59:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sleepyhead Fri 14-Sep-12 14:00:15

Unless.... maybe it's those relentless Daily Mail articles about those selfish 30 something career women leaving it too late to have babies.

Maybe the Daily Mail has persuaded us that actually women in their 30s and 40s are infertile, ergo no need for contraception hmm

crackcrackcrak Fri 14-Sep-12 14:01:24

Hormonal contraception is a no from me also. I will consider a coil again after this pregnancy as I was ok on the Mirena but I'm never going back on the pill it makes me feel rough and bloated. My dd's are so reliant on me emotionally I'm not risking feeling crappy and taking it out in them.
If I start another relationship it will be condoms for me/us too

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