13 March 2007

Abortion, sex education and privacy

I am feeling pretty worked up about this article I read on the beeb earlier today. Why? Well, because it is frequently stated by experts that confidentiality is really important to teenagers seeking advice about sex, relationships, contraception and abortion. If the right to confidentiality is withdrawn, teenagers do not stop having sex. All we have to do is look to the United States to see proof of that. Many schools now only promote abstinence until marriage in place of comprehensive sex education. As a result, they have the worst teenage pregnancy statistics in the developed world, and a population which is woefully under-informed about sex and contraception. After all, a recent survey revealed that 95% of Americans have sex outside of marriage, so we can see that abstinence, despite being 100% effective, is in fact 95% unrealistic!

So, if we know that preventing teenagers from having sex is not going to work, what is the solution? Well, in my opinion, we need to extend our sex education programmes in schools, to make sure that nobody slips through the net. We need to make sure that the physical elements of embarking on a sexual relationship are thoroughly covered by professionals: school nurses, midwives and health visitors, and we need to also discuss the emotional implications with children and teenagers. Ultimately, we need to make sure that anybody deciding to have sex is able to do so knowing the risks involved. Without that knowledge, how can it possibly be described as 'informed consent?'

The above is the only viable way to go about trying to prevent teenage pregnancy and reduce abortion rates. We cannot justify impinging on the privacy rights of teenagers to satisfy the paranoid needs of their parents to know exactly what their activities are. If we educated young people comprehensively about sex, then I feel that we would be able to trust them to make the right decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.

As for the claim that "
Parental information laws in the US are said to have resulted in a 15 to 20% drop in abortion rates for minors." What does that mean exactly? It doesn't claim that conception rates have dropped, which I think we can all agree, would be a positive effect, it claims that fewer young girls are accessing abortion services। Is this really a positive thing? If these young women want to carry the pregnancy to term, then of course they should be supported, but my concern is that right-wing pearl-clutching parents are preventing their daughters from using abortion services, and instead are determined to make their daughters face up to the 'consequences' of sex। Basically, they are punishing these young girls for having sex outside marriage by not allowing them to take responsibility for their own reproductive organs. Is this really the situation we want to be left with in this country?

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