Tallulah has tweeted that the Sunday Star Times just shouldn't write about abortion again until they can show some understanding of the subject. Here's how they could have handled today's shockstick rubbish.
First up - the headline, which is "Secret School Abortions" on Stuff's front page, in big bold letters and top of the news list, and "Schools arrange secret abortions" on the actual article page. A friend pointed out if you replace the word "secret" with the word "private" (you know, like other health procedures) then much of the shock value melts away.
And actually, this is not really news at all. What is the "new" angle for this story? Is there suddenly a Bill in the ballot to require parental notification? Is it a new situation, that wasn't already happening? The answer to the latter two questions is surely no, so why is it getting reported at all, especially so high up the news agenda?
But back to the article. Don't worry SST, I've fixed it for you. Read on:
A mother is angry her 16-year-old daughter had a
secretprivate abortion arrangedsupported by a school counsellor.
Helen, not her real name, found out about the termination four days after it had happened. "I was horrified. Horrified that she'd had to go through that on her own, and horrified her friends and counsellors had felt that she shouldn't talk to us," she said. (How exactly was she going through it "on her own" if she had talked to her friends and counsellors? I think what this parent really means, and I think I would feel the same way, is "horrified that she'd had to go through that without me.")
She had suspected something was wrong, but her daughter insisted her tears were over everyday teenage dramas. (Sadly unplanned pregnancy is an everyday teenage drama for many. Let's get some really decent sex ed going on to sort that, and give clear messages to everyone about agency over your own body, that it's ok to say no, and sexy to ask for consent).
But Helen confronted her daughter's friends, who said the counsellor had taken the girl for a scan and to doctors. "I didn't know that they could do that."
Helen said teachers could discuss how a student was doing in school or phone parents when their child misbehaved, but would then keep
life-changingsituations such as abortions secretprivate. (It is more life-changing not to have an abortion imho.)
Her daughter had since told her the counsellor "wasn't very forthcoming" with advice. The counsellor did ask the girl if she had talked to her parents, but never pursued it. ETA: The counsellor respected the privacy of the student, as per the law and the ethical requirements for the profession.
Helen said follow-up counselling for her daughter was "nonexistent". She concedes patient confidentiality is a tricky issue and said her child feared she'd be disowned. "She's come to realise that's not the case. But if you're responsible for them, surely you should be told." (Why did this young woman fear that she would be disowned? Why didn't she feel she could tell her mother herself?)
Helen has been too upset to approach the school. "Afterwards I was too wild, and I probably still am." (Too upset to talk to the actual school, but just the right amount of upset to do a media interview about it? How did this story get in the paper again?)
Another mother who was worried for her 15-year-old daughter "hit a brick wall" when she approached the school, and eventually discovered it was a friend of her daughter's who had undergone an abortion. "But I went through the horror of knowing that under the legislation, they
did not need to say anything to me.were obliged to respect the privacy of their students." (Why is it so horrifying to allow your daughter to control her own body?)
One teacher told the Sunday Star-Times she had seen parents become "absolutely livid" after finding out they had been kept out of abortion decisions. She knew of a Year 13 student who had had two abortions – one with her parents' knowledge, and one without.(Anecdote, not evidence)
She said the law catered for the "lowest common denominator" – pregnancy as a result of incest or rape, but girls sometimes did not want to tell their parents for fear they would react badly or demand prosecutions for statutory rape if their daughters were under 16. ETA: The law does not automatically allow abortions in cases of rape or incest. Police are able to use discretion around prosecutions for statutory rape and such charges are very rarely laid.
Christchurch lawyer Kathryn Dalziel, who wrote 'Privacy In Schools: A guide to the Privacy Act for principals, teachers and boards of trustees,' said students who saw counsellors were promised confidentiality, and the service
was bound bywould respect the Health Privacy Code.
"When it comes to contraception and abortion, they [counsellors] would need the consent of the person before they could share information with a parent or the school," she said.
"If that protection disappeared, you can pretty well guarantee the young person won't tell the counsellor a thing – particularly the thing you need them to talk about."
And a counsellor who broke the rules and told a parent without the child's consent could be struck off ETA: for breaching privacy and potentially putting the child at risk.
Dalziel said she would be devastated if any of her daughters had an abortion without her support. "But knowing it is something that could happen, my whole thing about raising my children is to know how to listen and learn and get information." (THIS!!!!)
Guidance counsellor Helen Bissett said the situation could be an "ethical nightmare", and a number of schools now had wellness centres so girls could see a nurse, not a counsellor.
Not knowing how a parent would react was one of the main reasons girls wanted to hide the truth, she said. "In the heat of the moment, parents can say some pretty rough stuff but once they've got through that, they're often really supportive."
She talked to students "long and hard" about getting a family member involved. Girls had to see a doctor for tests, scans and see two certifying consultants before they could have an abortion. The consultants explained the health risks and the girl had to sign a form saying she understood and consented. (Finally, some actual facts about the process, maybe this could have been nearer the start?)
"I don't organise any and I never want to," Bissett said. "I go with them to the doctor, but I won't go to a termination." (I sincerely hope she makes sure someone is going to the termination with them though.)
THE NUMBERS, AND THE LAW
Statistics New Zealand figures show that 3950 11- to 19-year-olds had induced abortions in 2009. Of those, 79 were aged between 11 and 14, ETA: representing 0.45% of all abortions that year. In 2009 there were 17,550 abortions performed, a two percent drop from 2008. Under section 38 of the Care of Children Act 2004, a female of any age can consent to an abortion. In 2004, then opposition MP Judith Collins put forward an amendment to prevent girls under 16 from having an abortion without their parents' knowledge. The amendment was voted down. ETA: In 2010 current opposition MP Steve Chadwick, a former midwife, was investigating putting a Private Members' Bill which would decriminalise abortion and make it the choice of the pregnant person. Parents are legally responsible for their offspring until the children turn 18 or marry, enter into a civil union, or a de facto relationship with their parents' permission.
I've chopped off the bit on the end about the young woman who didn't have an abortion. While I'm glad she was able to share her story, and it shows that teen motherhood doesn't have to be The End Of Your Life, I'm not sure how it is at all relevant to the article. She states clearly that abortion was never an option for her. Surely it would have been better to have sought a story from someone who had an abortion whilst a teen? Bit of balance perhaps for all the parent-perspectives in the article?
Ok, that's enough Rageyness from me for one morning. Time to finish my hot chocolate and eat some cake. Mmmm cake.
ETA: Speaking of cake, go read my favourite cake-baker's excellent post on just this topic (the awful SST article, not cake).
ETA2: There are heaps of good posts out there on this issue - feel free to add yours in comments, I don't have time to do a round-up but will just add here a link to the ALRANZ release on parental notification today, which is bursting with relevant factual goodness.