Pre-teens in South Africa given contraceptive injection without parental consent

"My concern is what effect this will have on my daughter because she hasn’t even started menstruating,” said Nandipha Ngalo, whose 11-year-old daughter was injected.
Fri Sep 16, 2011 - 2:03 pm EST

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa, September 16, 2011 ( - Contraceptive injections were administered without parental consent to young girls at a South African school, the Dispatch Online reported Monday.

The injections reportedly were given by members of the Dora Nginza Hospital’s family planning unit to girls in grades 6 and 7 at the Emzoncane Primary School in Zwide, Port Elizabeth. Some of the students were as young as 10 years old.

According to the report, the school had sent a letter to parents informing them that representatives from the hospital would be giving a talk to students about menstruation and contraception, but no mention was made of the injections.

“My concern is what effect this will have on my daughter because she hasn’t even started menstruating,” said Nandipha Ngalo, whose 11-year-old daughter was injected.

Ngalo said that the girls’ parents were summoned to the school after the injections had been administered, informed that their children were on birth control, and given “clinic cards” for follow up treatment.

Nelson Mandela Bay gynecologist Marcus van Heerden called the injection “totally unethical,” adding that it had the potential to delay the onset of puberty. 

“You don’t just give a contraceptive willy-nilly. That’s not medicine,” he said.

Injectable birth control methods, of which the most common is Depo-Provera, introduce synthetic hormones into the body that suppress ovulation.

According to the Depo-Provera website, risks of the drug include cancer, blood clots, stroke, irregular menstrual bleeding, and a decrease in bone density.

Despite this, injectable contraceptives have been promoted by “family planning” advocates as an effective and convenient form of birth control for minors, since they require only minimal effort on the part of the user. 

Port Elizabeth education department district director Dr Nyathi Ntsiko has also spoken out in opposition to the injections.

“We know there’s a huge problem with teenage pregnancy, but these things need parents’ consent and for them to be involved,” he said.

According to a Times Live report, a spokesman for the Eastern Cape health department said yesterday that the nurse who administered the injection would face a disciplinary hearing.

The administration of contraception to minors without parental consent is a common practice in many countries, including the United States and Canada.

According to a report issued this month by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, 21 states in the US allow all minors to consent to contraceptive services, 25 states allow it in certain circumstances, and 4 states “have no explicit policy.”

In Canada, the Consent to Treatment Act passed in 1995 enables minors to consent to contraceptive services, including those available from the school nurse. The minor’s consent can be implied rather than expressed verbally.

  contraception, planned parenthood, south africa

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