Friday, September 18, 2015

Failing Our Daughters

Imagine a teenage girl having sex.  I know, I know, she's had sex ed and been told not to.  Which has been proven to be as effective as the legal drinking age of 21.  So, as so many of us have done, she waits anxiously for her period, and it doesn't come.  Either she can or she can't tell her parents.  Or she can but she doesn't know that.

She doesn't say anything, except maybe to her boyfriend, who suddenly starts avoiding her.

If she goes to her guidance counselor, her parents will find out.

She can't go to a doctor, because the doctor would insist on telling her parents.

There was once a time, or should have been a time, or should currently be, clinics where teens can get accurate information about pregnancy, and told objectively about the options.  But that doesn't exist.

She tells a friend, who tells another friend, and, as Kurt Vonnegut might have said, so it goes.  The friends try to piece information together.  Somebody has heard that drugs for animals can cause abortions.  Another friend has heard of someone who swallowed lye.  Someone else suggested that she throw herself down the stairs.  They all agreed that she should wait and see; sometimes you just miss a period.

When there is absolutely no doubt that she is pregnant, she looks up some family clinic phone numbers.

At this point, when she turns the problem over to the adults, there is still no certainty that she will end up with accurate information and an objective counselor to go over her options.  If she is determined to have an abortion, she may not have the money.  She may end up talking to anti-abortion counselors who give her bad information.  She may not be able to get to an abortion provider.  Or she may end up, in desperation, swallowing lye.

Meanwhile, she has been depressed, distracted.  She may have continued to go to classes, but her grades have suffered.

Perhaps at some point her parents figure it out.  Recriminations followed by an insistence that she has the baby:  you got yourself into this.  She tries to believe this is the best thing.  Her mother is supportive one minute, angry the next.  Her father says she can stay at home with the baby, but then complains that he will have to take care of her and her kid.

If staying with her parents is intolerable, she may decide to go out on her own.  In some states, there is no health care available, or it is minimal and hard to find.  She can't get housing or food stamps.  There is no child care.  She takes what welfare she can, but it is hard to figure out where to go and how to apply.  When she does get assistance, it is not anywhere near enough to survive.  She doesn't eat well, she doesn't sleep well, she has never learned how to budget and has no resources to help her.  And she surely has no idea how to take care of a baby.

Lindsey Graham sent out an email yesterday bragging on the upcoming "fast-tracked" abortion ban vote.  This is part of an all-out blitzkrieg on women's reproductive rights in conjunction with voting to defund Planned Parenthood.  Once again, holding the government hostage by threatening a shutdown if Planned Parenthood is not defunded.  A Sophie's choice of which most desperately needed programs are going to be killed.

After Wednesday's republican debate, the media heralded Carly Fiorina as the "winner," because she was poised and spoke in complete sentences.  Women cheered her on for confronting Donald Trump for his crack about her face.  On the other hand, her comments about Planned Parenthood were complete fabrications.  Which fact-checking has gone pretty much unnoticed.

In this fictional right-wing world, it is all about saving "lives."  The government should be small and we should all celebrate our "freedom."  Unless we are women, or obstetricians.  Or teenage girls.

Accurate information and objective reporting or counseling has no place in 2015 America.

Here in South Carolina, where our legislature has finally passed a bill requiring accurate sex education be taught in the schools, the same determination is going into thwarting that law as that which went into civil rights laws integrating schools.  Charleston County, which is supposed to be a shining star in the redneck firmament which is South Carolina, has been outstanding in its efforts to avoid telling the truth to our teens regarding their bodies.

So that girl who makes the mistake of having unprotected sex is easily forgiven.  She is living in a world of denial and of falsehood.  She has nowhere that she knows she can turn because anyone that might help her find her way is threatened with firing or defunding.

Our choice.  Not hers. 

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