By Simon Caldwell BROOK Advisory Centres, an organisation which provides contraception and abortion advice to children, has apologised to the Government for blaming Victoria Gillick for a rise in teenage pregnancies in the 1980s.
But Mrs Gillick, a leading parents' rights campaigner, is taking legal advice against Brook because she believes an offending paragraph on one of its factsheets remains Maccurate even after it has been rephrased.
Brook was approached by the Department of Health, from which it derives 88 per cent of its income — totalling £22m of public funds in the last 10 years — after Mrs Gillick complained about its factsheet, Teenage Conceptions Statistics and Trends.
The factsheet asks: "What caused the teenage conception rate to rise in the 1980s?" and replies: "Fears over confidentiality. The legal case taken by Victoria Gillick in the early 1980s confused young people over their rights to confidential advice and deterred many from seeking contraceptive help. Although the case concluded in 1985 in favour of young people's rights, fear and uncertainty lingered on among teenagers and professionals working with them." However, Government statistics show Mrs Gillick's Court of Appeal victory against the DHSS in 1984, which made it illegal to provide contraceptives to under-16s without their parents' consent, led to the only drop in teenage pregnancies in that decade.
After she was defeated by the Government in the House of Lords in 1985, the teenage conception rate again began to rise. A report in the British Medical Journal confirmed last week that England and Wales have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and drug abuse in Europe.
Mrs Gillick wrote to Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell through her MP, Malcolm Moss, to ask that she took action to withdraw the factsheet from circulation. Officials were ordered to investigate the matter.
Ms Jowell later wrote in a letter to Mr Moss, that the figures were supplied by the Office for National Statistics.
She added: "Brook assure us that the wording of the factsheet was not intended to make a personal connection between Mrs Gillick and the rise in teenage pregnancies during the 1980s.
"They apologise if the wording may have given that impression and have agreed to replace the paragraph."
It was rephrased: "Fears over confidentiality. Controversy in the early 1980s around the question of providing contraception confidentially to under-16s confused young people over their right to advice and may have deterred many from visiting contraceptive services. Although the issue was resolved in the House of Lords in 1985, in favour of young people's rights, fear and uncertainty lingered on among teenagers and professionals working with them."
The row will rage on because Mrs Gillick is scornful of the new wording, which she believes is "simply judicious" in order to avoid a potential court action.
She said: "Brook is disseminating the same bogus statistics in order to try to shift the responsibility for the increasing failure of contraceptive and birth control policies of which it is among the chief architects."
Besides taking legal advice, she has asked Mr Moss to contact Ms Jowell to re-apply pressure on Brook to either withdraw or entirely revise the paragraph and she is also threatening to inform the Charity Commission that Brook is publishing false information.
On the strength of statistical evidence, Mrs Gillick argues that greater promotion of birth control among the young leads to more promiscuity and conceptions — rather than a drop in unwanted pregnancies.