• Mon, Oct 29 2012

As A Parent, I Support Non-Parent-Approved Birth Control For Teens

birth controlThere’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.

(Photo: Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock)

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  • Andrea

    I wish this wasn’t necessary, but IT IS!!! I will be a little hurt if my sons decide to buy condoms or gets them from someone else and I didn’t know about it, but at the same time, I will be HAPPY that at least he is being proactive.

    If I had a daughter, I would SERIOUSLY consider giving her an injection even if we had the closest of relationships and she swore on a stack of Bibles that she won’t be having sex anytime soon. If they had it for boys, I would do it in a NY minute! It doesn’t mean that I want them to have sex, it doesn’t mean that I won’t be teaching them about the consequences of such an decision. But it means that at the very least, their lives won’t be outrageously derailed by having a baby they can’t possible care for.

    Teens have sex. PERIOD. They don’t have it more or less due to contraceptives.

  • Jules

    BRAVO. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. The only thing I would add is that if we want to teach young women that they are in control of there bodies, that means they don’t need their parent permission to share it with someone and they do not need permission to obtain birth control. I plan on telling my children that their bodies are valuable and belong to them alone. I was raised on the mantra of sexual empowerment, which is the power to say yes if and when I want to and do what I am comfortable with if I feel like it, and also the power to say no if I don’t want to and if something makes me uncomfortable. I want to pass this on.

  • TheLily

    My mother is a Catholic and does not believe in using birth control, so when I started to have sex in my teenage years, I went to my doctor alone and asked him to get me on the pill. He didn’t need to call my mom and he knew her views on it. Later on, I found out I was allergic to most forms of brith control and ended up coming clean.

    Even so, I would have never gone to my mother. She never would have approved. Here’s the thing, I’d have gone ahead with it anyhow. I wanted to do it, so I did it.

  • Eileen

    You know, I feel this way (ish) about condoms, which are cheap, easy to learn how to use properly, and have almost no side effects. In fact, other than the fact that spermicidal condoms can cause yeast infections, I can’t think of any. AND they help to protect against most STIs, which are a real problem in today’s young people – not just HIV but regular ol’ chlamydia, which is very common among young women. So, you know, I have no – or very few – issues with freely available condoms. But I don’t feel the same way about hormones.

    The problem is that the shot or implant or Plan B is, well, a MEDICINE, and it’s not without side effects. Quick, how many teenage girls know that hormonal birth control can cause strokes, especially if you have high blood pressure, and that you shouldn’t smoke while on them? That they increase your risk for certain cancers (cervical, and the labels don’t rule out breast) while decreasing your risk for others (ovarian)? Or that they can give you migraines? (I know a girl whose migraines on combination birth control pills were so bad that she passed out while at work) Or that, perhaps most worryingly in a young female population, that they can cause mood disorders, especially depression? Lots of teenage girls and young women suffer from depression and don’t know how to deal with it. They don’t need a medication that can make it worse – and parents should know if their daughters are suddenly at higher risk for these health risks.

    Although, you know what? This may make me an old fogie or “ridiculous,” but I still think that if you’re not mature enough to talk to your parents about sex, or to have a gynecological exam, or to order a round of STI testing, you’re not mature enough to be having sex. Not to mention that as long as your parents are legally responsible for you, your actions are not entirely your own. Now, I’m sure I’m influenced here by the fact that my mom’s talk about sex was much too little, too late, and that I did not do it until I was over the age of majority. But I still think that taking responsibility for your sexual health involves a lot more than getting someone to stick an Implanon in you.

    • Andrea

      The unfortunate fact is that MANY teens are NOT mature enough to handle sex and they do it ANYWAYS. So everything you posted here is true, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that teens are stupid and will have sex whether they are mature or not.

    • Eileen

      A brief survey of my friends says that that’s definitely true, but I still side with passing out condoms and showing how to use them properly over introducing hormones to young women and girls who haven’t been examined by a physician or are unaware of the potential side effects. Especially since, as I mentioned, STIs are a thing, and I personally know a lot of young women who don’t use condoms because they’re on the pill, whether they know anything about their partner’s status or not. And as my mom said when we finally did have a talk, “We can deal with a baby, but HIV is for life.”

    • Andrea

      My mother said the same thing, but a baby is for life too. And I’ll grant you that I am not crazy about anyone giving medicine to my child that I don’t know about. But I honestly can’t say I blame the UK for doing this. They have a huge welfare state (MUCH bigger than ours) and I guess they are about done with welfare moms. It is VERY sad. I don’t really agree, but I think we shouldn’t judge too harshly.

    • Kelsiee

      MOST teens have parents who wouldn’t help them even if they wanted to. Like me! And I used to do some pretty stupid crap an yes I was raped so shortly after that I was put on birthcontrol but my mother didnt put me on it. I did it myself! An the reason I did soo many stupid things is because I was abused and I rebeled against my idiotic parents just to try and get back at them for all the wrong they ever did. And yes SOME teens are immature when it comes to sex, but then theres kids like me who dont go and flaunt there selves at everyone in the world!! I am almost 17 an NO I DON’T regret what I have done in my past but I have turned my perspective on life around. So before you go and say something about “MOST” teens stop and walk a mile in someone elses shoes and figure out why they do what they do!! And I know plenty of people that YES had a baby boy or a baby girl in highschool and they had to drop out, but now there ALL back in school and they have matured enough to know what is right and what is wrong.. So please stop and think before you say “most” teens. Because I am a teen and I am NOT “most” teens!!!

    • meteor_echo

      Oh how wonderful. Guess that I was not mature enough to be raped, then – because I never told my parents about it. I just went and got myself tested for STIs, HIV, and pregnancy with my own money. And, by US laws, I’d still be a minor when it happened. Sit the hell down and don’t think for anyone else. Ever. EVER.

    • LiteBrite

      It’s not just about teenagers being mature enough to talk their parents about sexual situations such as pregnancy and STDs; it’s also about parents being open to having these discussions with their kids.

      I was fortunate in that I had a pretty liberal mother when it came to sex. She told me that she didn’t think I was old enough to have sex, but she also knew she couldn’t watch over me 24 hours a day. She told me that if I was going to have sex to at the very least use something, and if I ever needed her to go with me she would. I didn’t have sex until I was in my late teens (in college), and by that point I was old enough to get whatever I needed on my own. However, I had more than a few friends whose parents absolutely were not going to have an open honest discussion with them no matter what their age. These friends didn’t hold off on having sex; they instead did so in secret, without the necessary information to make an informed judgement.

    • StephKay

      Just speaking as a safer sex educator in another commonwealth country with similar policies, the first line of defense is ALWAYS condoms. I honestly think you’d be hard pressed to find a practitioner that didn’t counsel condom usage while prescribing birth control. I know I always mention that pregnancy is scary, but there are options. HIV thankfully now also comes with options, but unlike pregnancy it won’t ever truly be out of your life.

      I think what I don’t understand about your particular argument (and let me say, your views were incredibly well put even if I differ slightly, and I genuinely believe you are leaps and bounds ahead of the general population in terms of teen sexual health. You rock!) is the part about the dangers of hormonal birth control and young girls being unaware. You’re right, teens are unaware, and that’s exactly why these programs are so important. It gives girls (or female bodied individuals) the chance to ask the important quesions without being embarrassed by or relying on their parents outdated notions. They are being given a direct point of access with a care provider who absolutely will go over the risks vs benefits of all forms of birth control, and offer follow up care. I think that is a FAR more reliable and safe way to get the important info such as blood clot risks across, seeing as how teen girls are often prone to getting friends to go in for them, or buying a schoolmates nuvaring when they don’t have other options. At least this way a care provider is maintaining that relationship and looking for side eeffects. I’d say the prescriber is far more likely to weigh those risks than the typical parent. And I say this as a teen sexual health professional, a mom, and a woman who accessed similar programs as a teen in need of the pill.

      I should also add, on the note of “as long as your parents are legally responsible for you your actions are not entirely your own”, in my particular nook of the commonwealth parents can opt out of that responsibility once a child is 15, and medical matters become confidential and entirely up to the child at 16. It’s not the cut and dry 18 and up measures around here, which might also factor into the ethics of the debate at hand.these kids are making these decisions without parent liability anyways, unless they choose otherwise. Or at least they are if this system is present throughout the commonwealth, I’m really not sure.

  • Amy

    I really don’t understand the controversy. First thing, the 16 year olds getting the injections aren’t doing anything wrong at all. So the Daily Mail is being devious including them in their statistics. Statistics for 13-15 year olds would be more relevant.

    Surely these girls are doing the right thing by taking responsibility for their own sexual health? Sure, in an ideal world no one would want to have sex until they’re old enough, and we could all talk about it openly. But we don’t live in that world, largely thanks to Daily Mail readers who condemn every young teen who wants sex as a slut.

    These girls are actually more grown up than their parents- they see an issue and want to deal with it in a realistic and mature way, while their parents want to pretend it isn’t happening or go “Just say no to the hormones that have controlled us for millennia”. When your underage daughter is more responsible about her sexual health than you are, you give up the right to call her immature and make decisions on her behalf.

  • CW

    A 16 y.o. seeking contraception is one thing, but 13 is quite another. A 13 y.o. cannot legally consent to sex, so giving her contraception is aiding and abetting a crime. The doctor or nurse should be calling the cops, not dispensing the pill…

    • Jules

      Actually, you are wrong- regardless of age, sexual health always belongs to the girl, Always. And don’t you think fear of the cops would be highly ineffective because the discourse regarding sexual choices will be extremely limited if they go at all??

    • Amy

      That’s a great idea. Let’s not only make contraception completely unavailable to teens considering sex, but let’s also get the police involved. There’s absolutely no way that could backfire by, say, leading to 13 year olds having sex anyway and getting pregnant because they had zero access to contraception.

    • TheHappyPappy22

      A 13 y.o. can’t consent to sex with someone over the age of 13 but they can have sex with some one of the same age, can’t they? Why would a doctor or nurse phone the police over a girl sleeping with her boyfriend?
      I do think 13 is very, very young to be making such decisions but it’s not necessarily illegal. At least not where I live. And I agree with Amy and Jules that your proposed solution would not work out well.

    • Kelsiee

      You really need to know what its like to walk a mile in someone elses shoes! There are kids out there including me that have either been raped by family or by somebody they thought was a friend at a young age. I have been on birth control since I was 12 almost 13. So SHUT UP and think about others for once in your life!!

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  • A.Roddy

    When are teens allowed so much freedom to have sex? No wonder things are such a mess. A majority of teens do not bother to use birth control. Parents are more like their friends these days. Saying they do it anyway is lowering standards. Teens may he mature in lots of ways but not for sex. The fear of consequences is a good fear. This is not about shame but self respect and respect for who is still raising them. Saying no takes more courage than saying yes. There is nothing wrong with waiting or abstaining. Parents are parents first. You are not their friends. You wouldn’t want them drinking or doing drugs so why is sex different?

    • Scarlette

      Yes. Let’s ignore reality that hormones take over. Let’s ignore history, that for most of human history people become sexually active before 20. Let’s do that in the name of DISCIPLE and be surprised when nature and hormones win and the sweet Baptist girl next door is 8 months pregnant at 14.

    • Scarlette

      Scarlette, couldn’t we just offer birth control for women, seeing as boys of any age can buy condoms, so why shouldn’t females of any age be able to decide their own reproductive fate?

      Wouldn’t that also cut down on teen parents, and welfare claims?

    • Scarlette

      No dammit. I am a Republican and I want my females to be disciplined. They will keep ‘their legs closed’ and forget the idea that they may have say in their own sexuality. My son can do whatever he likes as long as a he wears a condom, because, you know, boys will be boys. But the women? No. They will LISTEN, DAMMIT.