There’s an ongoing fight in the world of contraceptive access over whether minors should be able to receive condoms, birth control, and more without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Here in the United States, we just went through quite a debate over Plan B being given to high school students in New York City Schools. And across the pond in Great Britain, a new report showing that hundreds of young girls have received birth control injections without their parents’ knowledge is stirring up some controversy.
The Daily Mail reports that school nurses in the UK have given more than 900 birth control shots or implants in the past two years to girls age 13-16. These treatments were given without any parental notification or doctor’s visit needed. What’s more, at least 7,400 girls under the age of 15 were given contraceptive shots and implants at family planning clinics during the same time. In a move that should shock no one, some conservative parents and educators are outraged that all these teens can avoid pregnancy. The head of Wellington College, Anthony Seldon, had this to say:
“Anything that trivialises or treats it as something mundane or easy, particularly for young people, is damaging their ability to grow up and to properly form a loving lasting relationship. It devalues sex, it makes it like an ordinary, everyday thing like going to have a McDonald’s.”
It’s the same tactic used to argue against the HPV vaccine. You know, the tactic that was proven completely incorrect? It argues that making sex safer will somehow lead to all of our children thinking sex is no big deal, sleeping with anyone they come in to contact with. If children honestly think that sex is just like ordering “a McDonald’s” than there is a bigger problem than contraceptive access to address.
I understand why plenty of parents don’t want to think about their children having sex and getting birth control without talking to them first. I am terrified by the prospect that my daughter won’t come to me with issues about sex, safety and reproductive health. I plan on talking to her frequently and with conviction about romantic relationships, sex, pregnancy prevention and every other uncomfortable topic under the sun. I want to be the kind of parent that she can open up to.
But you know what guys? The world of teens isn’t all unicorns and sex ed fairies. Teens still might not come to their parents, no matter how open-minded and honest you try to be. My daughter might decide that she is never, ever comfortable telling her mother about her sex life. Personally, I still wish my mother thought I was a virgin. That doesn’t mean my mom didn’t teach me anything valuable about sex. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t willing to talk to me about it. It just means that I’m a private person when it comes to my sex life.
The idea that every teen is going to be able to talk to their parents about sex is ridiculous. That’s not because parents are universally horrible, though in the teen years some might argue it. It’s because sex can be a very private issue. It still needs to be safe.
Young girls in the UK are getting contraception without their parents’ knowledge. They might even be having sex. But you know what they aren’t doing? They aren’t getting pregnant and trying to raise children of their own. They are obviously trying to be responsible about their sexual activities. The parents of those teens shouldn’t be angry or upset that their teens didn’t come to them. Those parents should be proud that their teens thought about the consequences of their actions and did what they could to protect against unwanted pregnancy.