Sunday, 22 May 2011

SST and their scenarios

Gotta give the Sunday Star Times credit, at least they're trying to make their scare-stories about parents not having complete control over their teenagers a little more equal opportunity. So whilst girls were disproportionately targeted last week, today they've come up with some hypothetical scenarios aimed at increasing the net of vulnerable teens they're concern trolling on behalf of:
A counselor takes a student to a doctor who prescribes Prozac. "Once the student has seen the doctor, the responsibility for that decision is the doctor's. Counselors don't administer medication."
Actually, this is the one I'm closest to sympathetic to. Prozac does carry medical risks, particularly early on and in teenagers, and I'd like someone to be monitoring their health - and ideally that would be a main caregiver. But the counsellors aren't objecting to that - they're simply saying that it's the doctor's responsibility to assess the risk and take precautions. Seems eminently reasonable to me. And if a teenager needs a medication (and yes, I do have concerns about how antidepressants are prescribed - but I also know they can be a lifesaver) isn't it better they get it?

A student has suicidal thoughts. "Our job is to make a risk assessment. If our assessment is the kid really is at risk then there's no choice – the parent must be told. When kids are genuinely at risk, there's no fight in them, and they actually want someone to take responsibility for their safety."
They make a risk assessment? Can't have that. That would make too much sense.
Look, they've said that they will inform parents if there is a risk (I would hope/assume other procedures would come into place in certain circumstances, eg abuse). Sometimes people have vague, fleeting suicidal thoughts when things are going badly that they have no plans to act on. Of course expressions of these need to be taken seriously until it's determined what the risk level is, but isn't it best for teens to be able to express them and have help dealing with them?

A student considers a sex change. "If there is no indication of serious imminent harm, then there's no choice; we can't tell."
Oh yes, here's the ultimate scare story! Note the really vague term 'sex-change' which most people are going to associate with surgery. Let's get this clear. Little Bobby is not going to go to school one day and come back as Roberta, minus a penis. Surgery happens at the end of a long, long process, and is rarely publicly funded. There probably isn't even any medication involved at this stage (and if there is, see Prozac argument above). What we are talking about is teens discussing their gender identity in a supportive environment. I think that's fucking fantastic - I can't imagine that anyone would have felt able to to that at my high school.

And, yknow, gender identity can be very fluid for teenagers. Some people will know that they're not cisgendered from a very young age - but others will only start to explore the idea at puberty or later. And of those that do, some will be trans* and take medical steps, others will not but identify differently to how they were assigned at birth. And some will be cisgendered but have been exploring - say - an uncomfortableness with gender roles they were expected to take. Imagine being outed to your parents at such an early stage in your exploration, when you're really not sure what to tell them.

We didn't have counselors in my high school, so this is quite a new concept to me, but if they're providing a safe space for teenagers to talk about these issues, conducting risk assessments to keep them safe but not breaking their privacy unnecessarily, then this is a fantastic and needed service. Shame on you, SST, for your scare-mongering. I can guarantee that if you manage to destroy the confidentiality, kids are going to die because of it.


I also recommend Boganette's post on Judith Collins' call for a law change.

18 comments:

Nicholas O'Kane said...

I paticipated in such a discussion on this blog on this issue last week. In that I bought up the example of tattoos as an example of how a girls bodily autonomy does not supersed parental rights over her.

I don't approve of doctors giving depressant medication to teens without parental consent except in exceptional circumstances where the child without medication will suffer grave harm and/or life endangerment.

Lets go to the philosophy of the debate

The claim "my body my choice" is valid for adults in most circumstances, including abortion(leaving aside of course the personhood or moral status of the fetus and asuming it has no moral status or no more moral status than a normal body part like an tonsil).

Since minors don't have the same maturity of adults, and also that parents have certain rights and responsibilities over them (partly as a consequnce of the above), minors don't have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies, and instead that their parents have the right to decide for the teen what happens to their bodies.

A convincing case was because abortions are a much more serious issues than tattoos and because of the unique serious effects of pregnancy on the pregnant women this limits the amount of control parents have over daughters in this case. So I would oppose parents forcing a girl to have an abortion in a wanted preganncy against her will.

The choice to continue with a pregnancy should be considered the default choice, as no intervention is needed for it, while for an abortion there is medical intervention to end the pregnancy. When debating the issue there is a one way street. A teen can keep a unwanted pregnancy secret by abortion, but not a wanted one and secretly give birth to the child and hide the baby from the parents (this will be too difficult). This means allowing secret abortions (where there are no secret births) make the abortion choice easier than the birth choice (as the parents have to be told of the birth, but not the abortion)

It should also be noted thatparents also have a right to know what their sons/daughters are up to as they are both morally and legally responsible for the upkeep of their children, and in most cultural contexts (including historically western culture) have a degree of ownership of their children. This right to know includes sexual activity of their kids (espcially given the psychological issues sex can involve, and risks of pregnancy/STDs etc, that the parents may have to deal with.

The proposed law Judith Collins is talking about is parental notification, not consent. So there is no infringement of the bodily autonomy of women apart from telling the parents. To remove this would elevate the abortion choice over the birth choice, as well as infringe of parents right to know severly, with limited increase in a womens right to choose

Also in usual circumstances it will probably be the parent not the counsellor who knows the girl best and whats best for her. Also a girl knowing that aparents will know about any pregnancy might make her think twice before engaging in risky sexual behaviour which will eliminate the need for abortion in the first place (wouldn't that be cool)

I consider as a result the parental notification (with a judicial bypass in exceptional circumstances such as abusive parents) to be the best balance of parental rights over the bodily autonomy of women in this case

anthea said...

Nick - did you actually read what I wrote? Because this sounds like a brief introduction and then a rehashing of some argument about abortion which is only tangentially relevant.

Boganette said...

Thanks for the linky love :)

Nicholas - on the other thread you were told why you're wrong when it comes to this. Did you not see that?

But one thing I will say is "Also in usual circumstances it will probably be the parent not the counsellor who knows the girl best and whats best for her." should be highlighted - I 100% don't agree with this. We hold counsellors to a much higher standard than we do parents. And it's dangerous to just assume that all parents, everywhere, have their child's best interests at heart. We KNOW that is not the case. People I trust as a whole more than parents as a whole - doctors, counsellors, teachers. I could go on.

You're so right this whole thing is just bullshit concern trolling. As Nicholas believes - some parents think their kids are property. So why they fuck would be want THOSE kind of people to have full control over their child's access to healthcare and support?

Nicholas O'Kane said...

Anthea, yes I read the original post. Sorry if I talked too much about the parental notification issue (you ideally need a parental notification post in your "abortion and morality" section). I thouight the Star Times article was mostly about the parental notification issue by giving examples elsewhere of where parental notification is needed so asking about the inconsistency for abortion.

I pretty much agree with your thoughts regarding these 3 scenarios. I tend to be purist thinking that counsellors should respect student privacy at all cost (like a priest in confession) except where there is serious harm to another person and/or the student (so a suicide attempt will fal under this category, a secret tattoo or abortion or secret sex change operation won't). However I see counsellors as more advisors than to actually go out and help teens do stuff, especially if it involves going behind partens backs. I have a strong belief that teens should have close relationship with their parents ideally and don't think counsellors should undermine this.

Boganette- How can a counsellor know a person better whats best for them when they have had only a one hour counselling session withthem, then a parent whos spent the last 15ish years raising a teen and spent countless hours with that person? While cases of abusive parents or parents in poor relationships with their children do exist, fortunately most parents aren't like this and all the parents I know are really kind and loving and who I would trust just as much as any counsellor.

Boganette said...

Why have they only had one session? Why was it only an hour? How do you know they haven't had 150 sessions over three years? How do you know they haven't had sessions with their counsellor since the very first term of school? How do you know that they even talk to their parents? For a lot of young people a teacher or counsellor is like a parent - maybe they never see their parent/s. Maybe their parent/s don't spent "countless" hours with them. Or the hours they do spend with them are spent not communicating or showing any affection or love towards their child. What if the parent doesn't consider 'parenting' to be very important?

"fortunately most parents aren't like this" - Really? How would you know? Do you want to gamble the life or emotional or physical well being of a young person on that view? No?

Oh so all the parents you know are good parents? You personally know some parents who are actually into caring for their kids and doing what they can to love and support their children? Good for you buddy. Would you like a medal? Thanks, but I think we probably should change well thought out laws based on your anecdotal evidence around parenting.

Also, a counsellor isn't 'undermining' any relationship a child has with their parent. That's a ridiculous fear-mongering idea that isn't based on anything substantial. You do realise the counsellor isn't actually giving the student an abortion don't you?

Nicholas O'Kane said...

Point taken regarding the time spent. I do concede that in some situations it is possible the counsellor sadly may know more than the parents about the child/whats best for her. Any law passed will presumably include a judicial bypass to cover difficult sitautions.

I think it is okay for a counsellor to mention abortion as an option alongside birth and adoption or the girl keeping the child and informing in a factual way about the issues that isn't designed to present abortion as the best/only choice. If the counsellor aranges for the abortion to take place and takes the girl to the hospital that isn't much diffirent to preforming the abortion in my view

And when a counsellor helps a girl do stuff behind a parents back (actively assisting the ac tivity, not merely respecting confidentiality) if I were the parent I would feel the counsellor by encouraging my teen to live a double life involving deciet would be undermining my relationship with my children

Hazel Parson said...

I like cheese!

Seriously, though, I pretty much agree with you and don't have much to add.

Just--regardless of what the individual teenager's relationship is like with her or his parents/guardians (and in most cases it's good, or at least acceptable), the individual teenager might well want to talk to people who are not their parents!

I had a decent relationship with one of my parents, but that didn't mean (and doesn't mean now) that I want to talk to him about everything that I feel; and I'm reasonably unemotional as people go--I can well imagine wanting to have an objective adult to talk things over with.

I also don't think that ignoring basic medical principles of confidentiality is a way to get teenagers to trust the profession.

ideologicallyimpure said...

Mind-blowing thought here, Nicholas: if teens are choosing to live double lives, and a counsellor is listening to them and supporting them by way of respecting patient confidentiality, guess what? Their "relationship" with their parents was probably pretty fucking undermined to begin with.

Boganette said...

"Any law passed will presumably include a judicial bypass to cover difficult sitautions." - HA! HA! HA!. Sure, OK dude.

No counsellor is saying "Omg like abortion is like super fun and I have a ten-trip ticket for students at the abortion clinic so let's get in my mini-van and I'll buy you ice-cream and sweets afterwards!".

There is no conspiracy - a counsellor tells a student what her options are. She decides. They support her in whatever decision she makes. Why is that so difficult to understand?

"If the counsellor aranges for the abortion to take place and takes the girl to the hospital that isn't much diffirent to preforming the abortion in my view"

1) I highly doubt that is happening. Why do you think that's happening? Where did you hear that?
2) You're pretty heartless if you want an 11 year-old rape victim to go get an abortion on her own without a support person just because it suits your weird (lack of) moral values.
3)I drove my grandfather to hospital to get heart surgery last year. Why am I not getting the same wage as the doctor if by talking to a hospital administrator and driving a car means I am no different to an actual heart surgeon. Economic times are tough I want my big doctor salary. This is an important issue. I think you should email your local MP and point out your incredible wisdom on this subject and maybe we can get a private members bill out there that pays drivers and support people the same wage as doctors. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Nicholas,

I asked you before but you did not seem to want to answer:

If a teenage girl got pregnant and wanted to have an abortion, or did have an abortion, would you kick her out of your home (or beat her).

Do you accept that this will happen to teenage girls throughout the country if the law is changes?

Millsy

Nicholas O'Kane said...

Boganette-
The amendment proposed by Judith collins in 2004 did include a judicial bypass option, as do many US state laws requiring parental notification or consent. For instance in Western Australia the girl can have an abortion without parental notification if aproved by the childrens court or the girl no longer lives with her parents.
1) I'm pleased to hear that counsellors are not quite as involved in the abortion as I previously thought. To me counsellors should do nothing more than just talk about it
2) Ideally the support person should be the parents. I think an 11 year old probably won't know what an abortion is (I didn't when I was 11), yet alone be mature enough to make the descison to have one. Hence why her parents or others who love and care for her should make the choice for her. If the rapists are her father (or family member) for instance she can be put with a foster family which can be responsible for her.
3) I still see you as participating in your fathers heart sugery, albeit not to the same extent as the Heart surgeon. The reason why doctors are paid more than drivers is many people can drive, but few can do the surgery
Milsey-no and no. And I believe that few if any teenagers would get beaten up and/or kicked out of home as a result of a parental notification law. In those rare circumstances where such a risk may exist I expect the judicial waver to be used.

How about this challenge. Western Australia has had a parental notification law for 13 years now. Can you find any media articles about a girl being beaten up or kicked out of home because of that states parental notification law? I did a few google searches and can not find any stories (this doesn't nessescarily mean they don't exist, but does indicate such must be at best very rare).

LudditeJourno said...

Nicholas - just your very last point - actually, whether such things are reported will depend very much on:
a) the young person's access to the media. Unlikely many 12 year olds are going to call Channel 9 in Australia and say "guess what, I was beaten because I was pregnant." If reporting violence against children was that easy, we'd see very little else in our papers.
b) Whether anyone else knows about the violence, and reports it themselves. But parents who behave abusively to their children are very good at covering it up, as we know.
c) Whether even if by chance someone finds out (say a counsellor or a social worker), that person deems the best way to deal with it for that child is to go to the media. Again, unlikely.
d) Whether if the media finds out, they can skirt around protective laws which prohibit reporting of child abuse in terms of naming young person or any identifying things.

So can't agree with your analysis about no media coverage = no problem, sorry.

Boganette said...

You consider jumping through hoops, having a teenager go to court on her own, face a judge - you consider that to show the law change will be fine if a young person is in a 'difficult situation'. Oh please. And what if she can't get to the family court? Bad luck? What if the judge is busy and can't see her for a week and she goes over the 12 week limit? Too bad? What if she's too terrified to go to court for fear she'll be found out? Oh well! Nicholas says suck it up!

I'm simply amazed that you view 'put her in a foster home', send her to court, take away her ability to make her own decision without pressure as all being preferable to just allowing her to make a decision after she's been given all the information she needs.

Do you think it's possible that you didn't know what an abortion was at 11 because you can't get pregnant and it wasn't ever anything you EVER had to worry about EVER? Maybe? Do you think maybe women know what abortion is because they ummm you know might get pregnant? FFS.

What about a 15 and a half year old? Do you think a young woman who is one day away from turning 16 knows what an abortion is?

All the information is given to these young people. It's their body - they get to make the decision.

Basically your argument is that you think you know better than young women when it comes to their health choices. That is an aggressive and cruel stance. That is exactly it - to the point where you think ANY adult is in a better position than a young person to decide if they want to give birth. That is just a horrible thing to me. It's not up to you what a young woman does with her body (and thank goodness for that).

You're willing to gamble the health and well-being of young people for no reason at all (except that you have some weird God complex). That is just so wrong.

Also - I think it's totally fucked up that you don't even care that a "few" girls will be abused or forced into a pregnancy because of a change in law. To me if this law stops just one child from being beaten or abused or dying or being maimed from an illegal abortion or being forced into having a baby she doesn't want then it's totally 100% worth it.

Your delicate sensibilities are not actually important. The lives of young women are what is important.

MelissaF said...

Nicholas: The only person who should have any say in whether a woman of any age gets an abortion or not, is the pregnant woman. Or do you really want 13yr old girls to be forced/pressured by their parents into carrying a child that they don't want? Pregnancy & birth are high risk to the mother's health, even at the best of times. Factor in physical & emotional trauma, impact on schooling, & having to care for the baby they didn't want that has ruined their life, or alternately having to go through the strain of pregnancy & trauma of birth only to adopt the infant out. That's why I don't think anyone, parent or not, should be able to force or coerce a girl/woman to carry a pregnancy to term. And that's why abortions need to be confidential, because informing parents puts the pregnant girl at a risk of being violated in one of the worst possible ways. Letting parents have a say in whether a girl gets an abortion reduces those girl to nothing more than a walking uterus utterly owned & controlled by others. And thats just disgusting. Apologies for the lack of paragraphs, I'm on my phone. Melissa F.

Boganette said...

"I think an 11 year old probably won't know what an abortion is (I didn't when I was 11), yet alone be mature enough to make the descison to have one. Hence why her parents or others who love and care for her should make the choice for her"

So if they said she had to have an abortion and she didn't want one you would be OK with that? Or not?

Is she 'mature' enough to choose to carry the pregnancy to term? Or are all young people incapable of figuring out whether or not they want to be pregnant?

Do you think a young person might be pychologically or physically damaged or traumatised by being forced to have an abortion against her will or forced to carry a pregnancy against her will? Does that matter to you if they are?

Nicholas O'Kane said...

"So if they said she had to have an abortion and she didn't want one you would be OK with that? Or not?" Probably not, although in an 11 year old I think it should primarily be the parents who make the choice. I admit these are difficult issues.

"Is she 'mature' enough to choose to carry the pregnancy to term? Or are all young people incapable of figuring out whether or not they want to be pregnant?" No I don't think she is mature enough to carry the baby to term. I think most 11 year old could be too imature to decide wether or not they want to continue a pregnancy.

"Do you think a young person might be pychologically or physically damaged or traumatised by being forced to have an abortion against her will or forced to carry a pregnancy against her will? Does that matter to you if they are?"

Yes I think that people can be deeply traumatised by having abortions or being forced to continue pregnancies against their will, especially when it is added to the trauma of rape. This is very concerning to me (as it should be to all). However I still consider an 11 year old too young to make such importnant desiscons and her parents better qualified to make them, presumably taking the trauma into account. Of course the girls views shoudl be considered to the utmost extent

Julie said...

So we've established that Mr Nicholas O'Kane hasn't changed his views on abortion, and indeed is all over it despite the fact he'll never be in the situation of dealing directly with an unwanted pregnancy. Good to know.

In terms of the maturity issue, let's unpack exactly what the decision is a bit. It's not actually deciding whether or not to have an abortion. It's deciding whether or not to continue a pregnancy, to have a child. If the decision is to not continue then abortion is the method of realising that decision, and I think the trauma of an abortion is directly related to all the unhealthy and unhelpful discussion around abortion based predominantly on the ridiculousness of fetal personhood.

If an 11 year old is pregnant then chances are some thing awful has already happened. Supporting her to make a decision about what to do next is important. But her parents are not the only people who can do that.

Nicholas O'Kane said...

"despite the fact he'll never be in the situation of dealing directly with an unwanted pregnancy. Good to know."
Nice ad-hominen attack.

"It's not actually deciding whether or not to have an abortion" Thats exactly what is being decided. " It's deciding whether or not to continue a pregnancy" or discontinue the pregnancy by having an abortion. I'll believe the descison is about pregnancy continuance only and not abortion if the don't continue pregnancy choice is excercised by a means other than abortion.

The abortion vs continue preganancy choice is a binary choice. But the choice primarily is about abortion as if the abortion doesn't happen the preganacy continues by default.

saying that the desicison is about continuing the pregnancy, not weather or not have an abortion is like sayiong that the choice to have a tattoo isn't about getting a tattoo, it is about keeping your body the way it currently is. Or the descison to go on holiday isn't about going on holiday but instead making a choice about staying home.

"I think the trauma of an abortion is directly related to all the unhealthy and unhelpful discussion around abortion based predominantly on the ridiculousness of fetal personhood." So abortion is just another form on contraception. I think we'll have to agree to disagree here as this debate will take forever, and has been covered many many times elsewhere


"But her parents are not the only people who can do that." I agree, but think the parents should do that if they can, and probably best as they raised the child and usually know the child best. If there is really good reason why they can't the judicial waiver option can be used. Remember that a child can get support from multiple people not just parents, the issue about parental notification is weather or not parents should be involved, not other people excluded