Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mama don’t preach

Originally posted by The Realist

Let me start by pointing out that I’m not walking up to this topic lightly, I have a child who is fast approaching the age we’re talking about here, so this isn’t just me spouting an existential philosophical viewpoint. I just want to deal with the facts.

If you think Sue Axon is correct in her application to force doctors to inform children’s parents about their sexual health advice and treatment, then can you please tell me which of the following points you disagree with:

1) Having sex under 16 is stupid, psychologically damaging and illegal. No-one under 16 should be having sex.

2) Young teenagers are going to experiment with sex, regardless of point 1.

3) As a consequence of point 2, some girls will fall pregnant.

4) There has to be a sensible, pragmatic policy to deal with these pregnancies when they occur.

Oh, wait a moment, there is. It’s the current law:

Current guidance for doctors and health workers states that it is "good practice" for professionals to try to persuade a young person under 16 to inform a parent if they are seeking sexual health, contraception or abortion advice, but doctors must respect their right to confidentiality if they refuse. In the case of abortion, if a girl will not inform her parents, then a doctor should make "every effort" to help her to find another adult to provide support, for example a specialist youth worker

So why is Axon trying to change the law? A writer to the BBC’s online site argued: ‘This is one woman’s crusade to right her past. We should not 'all' be judged by this’. I wouldn’t go that far, however this one-woman campaign cannot be allowed to alter the current, humane and adequate public health policy. On the other side, some writers to the site asked ‘What kind of society are we living in?

The cruicial issue at stake is the removal of confidentiality, which has to remain intact no matter what. Ending this would inevitably lead to even more horrific consequences for some: teen suicide, backstreet abortion, "honour" killings and runaways.

What kind of society would we be living in then?


ph said...

A pre-16 is a child and the parent(or guardian) is responsible for that child, and that resposibility also includes the knowledge about that child's health.
If the state wants parents to take their resposibilities seriously it should stop tring to weaken the bond between parent and child. I not just concerned about the abortion issue I am really talking about the state's ever increasing usurption of the parent's relationship with their children. I don't know why the state just did't take my children off me at birth - just in case they were exposed to an ideas that did not coincide with the government thinking of the day. It is time that parents told the goverment to piss-off, and were better place to start than with abortion.

sparx said...

I'm not a parent so I don't have an emotional issue with this problem. I was a child once though and my thinking on the subject goes thus:

Doctors being forced to consult parents about their underage childs pregnancy is not going to stop said child getting pregnant in the first place. It will probably stop child going to the doctor to discuss abortion (or termination for the PC out there) as most 14-15 year olds (from my memory) are at a stage in life where parents don't know ANYTHING and (rightly or wrongly) don't want them involved.

If there is a change in the current status-quo it's not hard to to see a future where the UK's already over-the-top teenage pregnancy figures start to resemble a credit card number.

With all due respect to the poor woman who feels she made the wrong choice all those years ago and is trying to prevent her daughters doing the same (both noble and touching) the answer is blindingly obvious.

The best way to ensure your child doesn't creep off to a doctor to get an abortion behind your back is to make sure your child doesn't get pregnant in the first place.

I suggest Sue Axon puts as much time and effort into campaigning for better sex education, both in school and at home. She should also campaign to give her child and everyone elses a place where they can go to discuss sex, contraception & pregnancy in confidence with someone who genuinely cares and isn't going to 'dob them in' and leave them feeling betrayed.

Citizen Sane said...

I don't think it's got anything to do with "weakening the bond between parent and child". If a teenager gets pregnant and cannot, for whatever reason, confide in her parents, then I would argue that there's not much of a bond there in the first place. You could probably also make a case that, if a 13 year old is sexually active, there's not a particularly strong or effective parental guidance there full stop. I don't think we're dealing with model nuclear families here.

So if you then take away that confidentiality and anonymity, and given that they feel unable to face their family (or what there is of it), where DO they go?

What is the answer?

Citizen Sane said...

Sparx returns! Long time no see.

Totally agree with your comment by the way. You've summed it up perfectly.

The Realist said...

Spot on Sparx

ph said...

come on, what teenager is going to be happy about telling their parents she is pregnant. Of course there is going to be discomfort, but that does not mean that they should be given a way of avoiding this discomfort. Both the parent and child are being denied the chance of talking through the problems that have arisen. I doubt that the NHS has the time to discuss the problems properly with the child.
If there is a problem with the girl's family then OK, maybe it should be done anonamously, but the guideline does not say this.

ph said...

And while we are on the subject of teenage pregnancy - I seem to remember a couple of years ago the government sanctioned the handing out of Morning after pills to children without prescription. The liberals said it would reduce teenage pregnancy, the conservatives said it would not. Latest government research says that this policy has resulted in more teenage pregnancies and massivley more STDs ... another great result for the liberals

Citizen Sane said...

I think the long term (and only) solution is to have proper sex education taught at schools. No uproar, no moral outrage, just fact-based education for everyone from the age of 10 upwards.

Don't know about anyone else, but the sex education I got at school was shit. Reproduction of PLANTS as I recall. Or maybe bullfrogs. So bad I can't even remember.

No wonder we're the teen pregnancy (and STD) capital of Europe. Incidentally, my school was under a Conservative LEA.

I dread to think what passes for sex education these days.

The Realist said...

Agreed, Mr. Sane. Plus an increased availability of contraception - especially injections. Lower risk than the pill and (up to) five years of very reliable birth control. Couple that with a liberal sprinkling of ‘use condoms’ messages and we can move forward in a sensible way.

Laura said...

ph, I understand where you're coming from. I've been trying to get my head around where I stand on this issue. I would want to know if my underage child was having an abortion, or indeed having sex. It would kill me not to know. The thing is, if I knew, I would support my child, discuss all the options and then let them make their decision. But this woman is trying to fix her past by living through her children's present. Why should the child fix her mother's past. There are overbearing, abusive and bullying parents out there (and ph, i am not for one second putting you in this category) and the law protects their children from them.

ph said...


I am not sure that we know the real motivation of the woman, maybe she is trying to fix her past, or maybe she is in a position to know about how abortion can effect some people and feels that it is wrong for a 13 year old to go through these traumas without parental support.
Of course there will be some parents who are bullying, but do we always need to create laws that pander to the lowest common denomenator.
What about the child of reasonable parents who does not want a baby, does not really want an abortion and is afraid to tell her parents. In the current scenario she will be pushed into having an abortion. If her parents knew then maybe they could offer other solutions - in my case I would wish to bring up the child for her thus letting my daughter get on with her life.
As for more sex eductation making much of a difference (the totem mantra of liberals) there is little evidence that it does. I am absolutely certain that youngsters are well aware of all concepts sexual, but unfortunately they are children and thus are reckless, stuffed with hormones and will take absolutely no notice of well meaning liberal adults telling them to be carefull.
I am afraid that the only thing that will really effect underage pregnancies are those tested and tried social glues - stigma and shame. But they no longer exist

Citizen Sane said...

Ah yes, stigma and shame. The conservative cure all. Why not pack them off to nunneries or, better still, the asylum, while we're hankering for old fashioned methods of social enforcement?

And why is it that teenagers on the continent, subject to the same hormones and influences as teenagers in the UK, in countries with the same laws governing abortion and contraception, are much less likely to catch STDs or become teen mums?

Why is this so?

The Realist said...

Something else you said is wrong: 'In the current scenario she will be pushed into having an abortion.' - that is not the case.

Laura said...

I agree that it is wrong for children to go through these traumas without parental SUPPORT which is why doctors actively encourage children to tell their parents. You'll probably find that those children whose parents would just want to support their children in their own decision making will probably go to their own parents with a little gentle persuasion. Families are incredibly complex units and no two are the same. In my opinion, to FORCE a child, against her wishes, to tell her parents, or to tell them against her will, can be incredibly detrimental to that child's psychological wellbeing. A professional has no idea what is going on behind closed doors and so it potentially dangerous to wade in in this way. The law protects the "lowest common denominator" (and why shouldn't it) whilst trusting that all the other families out there have open relationships built on trust and respect and that children will go to their parents off their own back.

ph said...

C.S You tell me why you think that teenagers on the continent are less prone to early pregnancies and STD's ?

Maybe better job opportunities - doubt it

Maybe better sex education - I doubt it in most cases. Do you know what sex education is given in Italy or France ?

Maybe, just maybe their societies stigmatise getting drunk and having sex with all and sundry at an early age.

I have a possible answer - what is yours?

Citizen Sane said...

It was really more a rhetorical question, but here goes.

Much of Europe spend more per capita than the UK on schooling, welfare and health and these are the primary issues here. The rate of teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse and drug use (and the three go together) is much higher in deprived areas. The countries that I was thinking of (Germany, Holland, Belgium, all of Scandinavia) by and large do not have the same sort of problems that we are talking about. Are these countries more moral? No. Are they more religious? No. So what's happening there that isn't happening here? Lower levels of social deprivation and better standards of education and health care, in every instance.

I'd say your point about social stigma is true in countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, where the family unit is stronger, but this does not hold true in northern Europe.

What we have in many parts of the UK is a high concentration of poor families (very often single parent families) often living in dire council estates, either on small state handouts or minimum wage, coupled with poor education and life chances. A recipe for drinking problems and unprotected sex.

This is a bit of a rambled answer because it's a very complicated issue, but I'm convinced that our society's funny attitude to sex and alcohol are the root cause of many problems. We're a bit squeamish about discussing sex and this filters down to the classroom where sex education is often non existent. This must be a major factor in all this, no?

Anonymous said...

I agree Sane, single mums are to blame. For everything.