Medical experts in Scotland have issued new guidelines that suggest girls as young as 13 should consider long-lasting contraceptive options like injections, coils and implants. They claim it will help prevent teen pregnancy. Others fear 13 is too young.
The report, issued by the Clinical Effectiveness Unit of the Faculty of Reproductive medicine, asks that doctors "highlight the benefits" of long-lasting contraceptives when working with teens. They point out that though the "contraceptive pill is good for some people," women (or girls) who are "not good at taking a pill" (like irresponsible teenagers!) "long-acting methods are better." Currently, doctors can prescribe long-lasting methods for girls over 13 without their parents knowledge, provided that they don't suspect abuse or exploitation.
Naturally, conservatives are outraged that doctors would even dare suggest younger teens should be having consensual sex. Norman Wells, director of the group Family and Youth Concern, says the new guidelines are essentially giving girls permission to "engage in illegal sexual activity" and will "encourage sexual experimentation among young people." The age of consent in Scotland is 16, which only further complicates the issue for Wells. He adds that the government report is "treating the law on the age on consent with contempt and denying girls the protection it offers."
Wells statements, though notable for their near-hysterical tone, don't really say anything new. And neither does the other side, which points out, yet again, that the kids who want to have sex will have sex. We can tell them to stop all we want, but in reality, many teenagers are sexually active and would be better served by a condom than a repetitive lecture. We went over it earlier this year when the Provincetown school district began the whole "condoms for kindergartners" policy. And again when a Swiss company created a tiny condom for little penises.
While I fall squarely on the pro-contraceptive side, there is some good that comes out of this ongoing debate: it forces adults to reconsider our role in the sexual lives of teenagers. We haven't decided on how young is too young for sex? and we probably never will. Most parents certainly feel that 13 is far too young, but there are 13-year-olds out there who beg to differ. However, we don't really get to decide. Short of a chastity belt, there is no surefire way to stop teens bound and determined to do the deed from finding a way around parental controls. And maybe it's not really our place to decide how young is too young. Legally, sure, we need an age of consent - but what about the 13-year-olds who are dating other 13-year-olds? How do we know who is being coerced - if anyone? The back-and-forth also highlights the importance of talking about sex - and not just for parents. As an older sibling, I am no stranger to the "you know when you're ready, don't let anyone pressure you" spiel either (at least, that's how I tend to give it). I may not agree with Wells's belief that contraceptives will convince teens to start knocking boots, but I harbor the possibly naive hope that people like Wells will inspire even the most liberal adults to spend a moment just talking about sex with the young people in their life.
How Young Is Too Young For Contraception [RH Reality Check]
Fury Over Contraceptive Jabs For Girls Aged Just 13 [Daily Express]
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