Scotland’s rate of teenage pregnancies, among the highest in western Europe, is to be investigated in a Holyrood committee.
Youngsters in deprived areas are feared to be four times more likely to fall pregnant than those in well-off neighbourhoods and MSPs on Holyrood’s health committee announced yesterday that they are to examine whether strategies to address the problem are working.
An official target to reduce pregnancies among under-16s was missed in 2010, but ministers say they are committed to driving down unintended pregnancies. The last figures, published in 2001, showed Scotland’s teenage pregnancy rate was higher than most other western European countries.
Health and sport committee convener Duncan McNeil said the issue could have a long-lasting effect on generations of young women and their children: “The statistics are clear –Scotland has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in western Europe.
“Particular regions of our country are affected by this issue, which is more prevalent in areas of deprivation, and can have a long lasting effect on generations of young women and their children.
“Whilst there is general consensus over the fact that we need to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, it is clear that there are no quick fixes or easy answers.
“Both local and national strategies are in place to try to reduce teenage pregnancy, but this inquiry will try and see if they are working, particularly because the reasons behind teenage pregnancy are complex and often linked to a number of factors.”
MSPs on the committee will also look at what support is available for young girls most at risk of becoming pregnant and those who do have a baby while very young.
Figures published in June showed a key Scottish Government target for reducing pregnancies among under-16s was missed. Ministers had hoped to cut the pregnancy rate in this age group to 6.8 pregnancies per 1,000 girls by 2010. But the pregnancy rate for that year was 7.1 per 1,000.
A Scottish Government spokesman said teenage pregnancy rates in Scotland have been on a downward trend since 2007: “We are committed to reducing unintended pregnancies and will engage fully with the committee’s inquiry.
“It’s essential that young people have access to services and information when they require it, which is why we have asked NHS Boards and councils to ensure young people’s sexual health ‘drop-in’ services are available within or near every school in Scotland.
“We are also working with NHS Boards and councils to ensure that appropriate Sex and Relationships Education is delivered in all schools.”