In a move that has outraged parents, the UK yesterday unveiled a plan to place nurses in every school in England with the authority to help students arrange for pregnancy tests, morning-after pills and abortions – without alerting their parents – in order to improve “sexual health.”

While the plan does nothing to change minors’ access to birth control service – under-16s already have the right to contraception without parental consent – the attempt to place nurses in all schools with the authority and mandate to promote access to such services has drawn parents’ ire.

Sue Axom, a mother-of-five who recently lost her court battle to change the law allowing girls under 16 to have abortions without their parents’ knowledge, told the London Daily Mail, “This is undermining the role of parents. I believe this will encourage children to have under-age sex. It will put even more pressure on young girls as boys can say, ‘It doesn’t matter, you can get the morning-after pill.’ I do believe it’s beyond the pale if these services go to primary schools. I imagine we will see the abortion age going down and down.”

Presently, 2,409 nurses serve groups of primary and secondary schools across England. Placing a full-time qualified nurse in every school will require a massive increase in the number of personnel.

Jack Scarisbrick, chairman of the charity group Life, said: “The Government is relentlessly pressuring young people to be even more sexually active. There are some school nurses who are not allowed to give out aspirin or put plasters on children without their parents’ permission. But they can whisk a young girl off for an abortion without her parents’ knowledge. This condones, if not encourages, promiscuity and sexual activity.”

The UK continues to experience rising pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates, despite a $69.5 million government campaign promoting many of the same policies planned for the expanded nurse program. Already, clinics sited at secondary schools dispense condoms and morning-after pills to students and assist in arranging doctors’ appointments.

An audit has revealed thousands of 13-year-old girls supplied the morning-after pill without parental permission and 2,400 girls 13 or under in England’s primary system who received the Plan B contraceptive from the country’s national health system.

Researcher David Paton, professor of economics at Nottingham University Business School, has studied the government’s program and says there’s no evidence making birth control and abortion available to adolescents helps lower the teen-pregnancy rate.

“There’s a danger that it’s encouraging youngsters to engage in sexual activity early,” he said.

The new guidelines inform school officials nurses are the best people to provide these services to students because they are “able to assess need and prescribe appropriate medication and provide specialist contraception advice for the future.” They are also described as the appropriate personnel to help students concerned with “issues of sexual identity.”

Nurses are encouraged to provide confidential counseling “about emergency contraception, pregnancy or abortion” on and off campus and to communicate with students by text messaging or e-mail.

Schools Minister Andrew Adonis defended the new policy guidelines against family groups who called the change “disgraceful.”

“We want to expand [nurse’s] roles even further so that they have a key role in working with schools in supporting children to be healthy,” he said.

The policy is expected to be fully implemented by 2010.

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