National Archives: ‘Scare tactics’ plan for teenage girls

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MARGARET Thatcher was urged by one of her closest Cabinet allies to run a campaign of fear to deter teenage girls from becoming pregnant.

Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph wanted the government to produce a series of “scare” films in an attempt to curb the number of pregnancies among immature adolescents from “the least good homes”.

Sir Keith believed a “sharply rising trend” of bad parenting was a “major cause of poor education and crime”, and he had no doubt who was responsible.

“The young concerned tend to be the least mature from the least good homes. They embark on parenthood casually,” he wrote in a memorandum to Mrs Thatcher, dated October 1982.

“Those girls who are at most risk will tend neither to restrain themselves nor insist on or use contraceptives, nor to have sufficient grip even to consider abortion in sufficient time.”

His solution, he acknowledged, would be controversial. “One possibility – delicate and fraught with risk – would be to try to use, in connection with pregnancy, the approach used in connection with cigarette smoking – that is, fear,” he said.

Sir Keith reminded Mrs Thatcher that when he was a health minister he approved a series of four short films to try to scare people off smoking.

“They were widely noticed. Some of the most vulnerable may have been influenced because the films used hedonistic and short time-horizon arguments,” he said.