Friday, February 17, 2006

I'm torn on this

The state apparently provides free contraceptives to low-income women between the ages of 15 and 45 (virtually all women under 18 are considered low income). Some Republicans are trying to increase the minimum age to 18. (Doff of the cap to Dad29.) Kelda Helen Roys, executive director of Pro-Choice Wisconsin, in a bit of a non sequitur, is quoted as saying that "[w]hen we give teens accurate information about sex, we empower them to make healthy choices...."

But children under 18 are presumed incapable of making a choice to have sex. If you have sex with a sixteen year-old who is not your spouse, you have committed a class A misdemeanor. If he or she is under 16, you're looking at a felony. Nothing in the law will excuse you because you are also under 18.

So why do we wish to empower children to make a choice that we believe they are incapable of making? The only answer I can think of is that we don't believe we can stop them. And maybe we can't. We live in a highly sexualized culture in which the inhibition against pre-marital - and even casual - sex has been systematically deconstructed. While my own sense is that his was intentional and not inevitable, I am not convinced that it could ever be undone.

But there was a price to pay for this; a price paid in out-of-wedlock births, abortions, divorce and, if you believe the laments of many young women, a diminished capacity for intimacy. If parents want to resist this, is it really that outrageous to say that the state will not frustrate their efforts? Would requiring parental consent for kids under 18 be all that ridiculous? The oft-repeated claim that some families "can't talk about" sex is, more often than not, another way so saying that some parents won't consent.

So its back to "we can't stop them." But should it really be the policy of the state become complicit in a 15 year old's efforts to defy his or her parents?

4 comments:

elliot said...

These last two points:

"The oft-repeated claim that some families "can't talk about" sex is, more often than not, another way so saying that some parents won't consent.

So its back to "we can't stop them." But should it really be the policy of the state become complicit in a 15 year old's efforts to defy his or her parents?"

...are excellent.

Of course, what do you expect in a world where minors who couldn't have their tonsils removed without their parents' permission have a constitutional right to an anonymous abortion?

Anonymous said...

Try judging this policy by the outcomes.

Giving these teens contraceptives will reduce abortions, teen pregnancy, bad teen parenting, the infant mortality rate, the high school drop-out rate, and possibly STDs. And if the Freakonomics guy is right, the policy will also reduce the number of future criminals which teen parents tend to foist on taxpayers through their immaturity and incompetence.

If parents of teen parents bore the full cost of their choice to deny information about or access to contraceptives for their daughters, parental consent might be acceptable. But those parents never have and never will bear the full cost of their "moral" principles--the rest of us pay and pay in so many ways. There are serious negative externalities here that entitle the public to act for the sake of the common good. And the common good consists in minimizing teen pregnancies (without increasing teen abortions).

Frankly, we should be handing out contraceptives like candy to teens--both boys and girls. Do that or you'll be handing out diapers and formula instead.

Dad29 said...

Anony's definition of the "common good" is deficient in the extreme.

When the "common good" is opposed to parental control, it is NOT "common good."

It is fascist, or Bolshevik (take your choice) when we have determined that the State is more useful than the family.

Plato was wrong, too...

commonsenseguy said...

In the real world, kids have sex. In the real world, adults have sex when it's not a great choice either (adulterous affairs, stupid after-work boozy encounters). People are people. Even good people.

So why would be saddle society and teen moms and dads with children where there isn't the money or emotional support for either the babies or the too-young or disinterested parents?

It ain't a perfect world: why make it tougher in the name of rigid ideology or partisanship?

Compassionate conservatism?