Teenage Birth Control Rights
In today’s world, there are conflicts over the confidentiality of police reports, conflicts over the right to have an abortion, and conflicts over the release of personal medical records for public knowledge. All of these pressing issues have at least one thing in common-they are all issues of privacy. Many discussions take place regarding adults rights to privacy. Yet the same adults, who are so concerned over their rights, have proposed laws that limit the rights of teenagers. One of these bills, which regarded Title X (Ten) Birth Control Clinics, passed the U. S. House of Representatives in October of 1998.
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Legislators need to realize that pushing parental involvement is not ideal, and that there are many reasons why a teenager might be on birth control. Title X Legislation was originally passed in the early 70’s and stated that women’s reproductive health care should be available to all regardless of age, race, or monetary status. It also setup “Title X” Birth Control Clinics that provided women with low-cost contraceptives as well as medical screenings. Title X has been very successful. Over the years it has aided in decreasing pregnancy rates as well as reducing the spread of AIDS and STDs.
However, what worked in the simplistic age of the 70’s is not quite as effective in the transitional period of the 90’s. The new bill limiting the use of such clinics was co-sponsored by Congressmen Don Manzullo, Ernest Istook, and James Barcia. The team’s legislation stemmed from an incident in Crystal Lake, Illinois, in which a 37-year-old teacher brought his 14-year-old student to the Title X-funded county health department for birth control injections so he could continue molesting her at will (Manzullo Wins Title X Bill in House).
While this bill only mandates the Title X Clinics involve parents, it sets a dangerous model that others might soon follow. Adults believe that the current system, which allows for teenagers to obtain birth control without parental consent, “interfere[s] with parental authority” (Fennell). The argument is that parents feel threatened by the lack of involvement in their teen’s life. When in fact, there are many other ways to be involved in a teen’s life without being overly inquisitive regarding their personal sex lives.
According to Laura Meckler, twenty-five percent of parents, and forty percent of teens are uncomfortable talking about sex (Meckler, Teen Birth Rates Decline). Since discussion of sex causes discomfort between many parents and teenagers instead of pushing parental involvement in this issue, we should teach parents how to be involved in other aspects of their children’s lives. An article that I discovered recently stated that “mutual trust, a healthy respect for personal privacy, and communication” are the foundations of a good parent-child relationship (Being There for Your Teenager).
One way for a parent to achieve this is by being a good role model, and another is by showing love. According to Arnot Ogden Medical Center, “Plenty of love at home can make it less urgent to find love through sexual encounters” (Being there for Your Teenager). This thought is comforting because it suggests that parents can still have a positive affect on their child’s life without mandating parental involvement in the issuance of birth control and other personal issues. The thought also allows for teenagers and parents to forge bonds, which will promote more active parental involvement in the teen’s life.
While parental involvement is essential, parental over-reaction can inhibit communication (Being There for Your Teenager). In life, there are situations that are too embarrassing to share with others. For instance, as mentioned before, parents want to keep their medical records private, yet they want to know when/if their daughters are on birth control (which too can be a medical issue). According to CNN there is a birth control pill “Ortho Tri-Cyclen” which has been marketed to clear up acne (FDA OK’s Using ‘The Pill’ for Acne).
Birth control pills are also given to women who suffer from cramps or have irregular menstrual cycles. It is evident that birth control has other adult, private issues associated with it; therefore, it should be treated not solely as a solution to engaging in an unprotected sexual act, but also should be regarded as a solution to certain medical ailments. Teenagers, even though they are young, are still people and are still regarded as American Citizens. So why should their rights to privacy be invaded by over protective parents?
A state bill that also regarded limiting the service of Title X Birth Control Clinics by teens, originated in Iowa. However, it was not even favored by all of Iowa’s governmental players. Senator Johnie Hammond (D) recalls that they (Iowa legislators) had tried to pass a similar bill in the past. Her belief is that its passage would have only result in more teenage pregnancy, a much higher birth rate (Maxwell), and an increase in the occurrence of STDs as well as cervical cancer. Society should praise teens who want to protect themselves from pregnancy as well as disease, not condemn them.
An article published in 1996 stated that pregnancy rates have dropped by twenty percent in the last twenty years (Mauldon). This is due partially to the fact that more and more teenagers are using contraception, and they use it sooner after becoming sexually active (Mauldon). While in the past, the biggest concern associated with sex was teenage pregnancy, parents now need to realize that contraception (in the form of condoms) can also protect against STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and can stop the spread of AIDS.
In today’s world these life-changing diseases are just as dangerous, and unwanted as pregnancy. While in an ideal society, teens would refrain from becoming sexually active until they are more mature; presently it is impractical and foolish to have such wishes. Parents should be concerned for their teens, but should find more appropriate ways to voice their concerns instead of mandating laws that are a blatant statement against personal rights. This issue is not simply going to die and go away. For instance in St.
Paul, Minnesota the seven area high schools are currently dispensing, and have been for the past year, Birth Control Pills directly to some of their female students (St. Paul OK’s IN-School Birth Control). For all the parents who have “won” the minor battle over Title X teenage birth control rights, heed the wisdom of Sarah Brown (the director of an anti-teenage pregnancy campaign)-“While the adults are arguing, the kids are getting pregnant” (Meckler, Teen Sex Rates Drop for the First Time in 25 Years).