§ Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)
I beg leave to present a petition:
To the Honourable Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Parliament assembled.
The Humble Petition of U.K. Residents Sheweth:—
That to prevent unwanted pregnancies amongst young women under sixteen years of age, the DHSS Circular of December 1980 should be fully implemented.
This prayer comes not from any particular organisation but, as with other petitions that we have heard today, from ordinary men and women in all parts of these islands— literally from the north of Scotland to the south coast, and from Wales to East Anglia. All the petitioners—there are several thousand of them— are deeply concerned about the case brought in the High Court by Mrs. Victoria Gillick and the decision in the Court of Appeal on it. The petitioners are concerned at the many young women who will be in danger of unwanted pregnancies. They are concerned at the interference with what they see as the necessary right of doctors to give the treatment that they feel is necessary for the health of their patients. They are anxious that if the House of Lords upholds the decision of the Court of Appeal, the Government might take steps speedily to change the law allowing doctors to give the advice and treatment that they think is necessary, as set out in the Department of Health and Social Security circular.
The problem that the petitioners identify goes back to earlier attitudes in our law, when it was considered, in effect, that children were the property of their parents— an attitude which has, happily, changed in recent years. My petitioners are anxious about the dangers of bringing into the law the attitude of Mrs. Gillick, who seems to assume that becoming a parent automatically makes someone kind and wise, despite all the evidence that some parents physically and sexually maltreat their children. The petitioners therefore pray:
If the House of Lords upon Appeal in the case of Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA and Another do Uphold the decision of the Court of Appeal this would leave many young women in danger of unwanted pregnancies and prevent doctors from giving treatment they felt necessary for the health of their patients and
The law should be changed to allow doctors to give abortion and contraceptive advice and treatment as set out in the DHSS circular on the organisation and development of a family planning service.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.
To lie upon the Table.