London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Kensington and Chelsea 1967

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Kensington & Chelsea Borough]

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Of the 3,918 live births notified to me by the local Registrars,
794 were illegitimate. (These figures relate only to births actually
occurring in the borough. They do not, as in the case of the RegistrarGeneral's
figures, include births to residents occurring outside the
borough or exclude births to persons normally non-resident). They were
notified in the five districts as follows:-
Kensington North Sub-District 715 193 269.9
Kensington South Registration
District 534 59 110.4
St. Mary Abbots District 1,456 3^9 253. 4
Chelsea Registration District:
No. 1 40 2 50.0
No. 2 1,173 171 145.7
TOTALS 3,918 794 202.6
It has been possible to review 540 of these illegitimate births.
In 191 cases, the parents were in regular cohabitation, in 114 the
relationship was casual. In 74 cases, the mother was pregnant on
arrival in the borough. In 40 cases, she left the borough immediately
after confinement, and in 134 cases trace was lost and no further
information was obtainable. The Welfare Section received application
for acceptance of responsibility for residential care in 153 cases.
Of these, financial responsibility was accepted by the borough in 102
cases, by other authorities in 17 cases; 31 were withdrawn, and 3 made
other arrangements. 51 of the 153 became pregnant outside London.
Their countries of origin were:-
England, Scotland & Wales 72
Ireland 41
Commonwealth countries,
colonies and protectorates 18
Europe 17
Africa 3
America 1
Unknown 1
The reasons for this excessively high rate in the Royal Borough
are partly those applicable to the rise in rate in the country as a
whole, and partly those of local application. Nationally, the
so-called "permissive society"; the fact mentioned in a "Times"
leader that "modern society exerts great pressures on the young to
conform to a promiscuous sexual standard; that is true of some
advertising, some newspapers, some films, and some television"; the
loss or reduction of many former deterrents - public opinion, social
stigma, loss of employment, poverty, homelessness, abandonment, unaided
responsibility. The fear of contracting venereal disease with the
prospect of a two-year course of treatment for syphilis, together with
the possibility of terrifying long-term consequences, or, in the case
of gonorrhoea, prolonged and often ineffectual treatment, with the
possibilities of acute septicaemia, acute abdominal catastrophe, or
sterility. The fear of obstetrical complications during pregnancy
or parturition.
All these have been reduced or abolished by such agencies as the
permissive society, the welfare state, the ready availability of
abortion, modern drugs and modern medical or obstetrical treatment.