Sunday, 29 March 2009

We're in a state of sexual confusion

[...] It has been confusedly reported that the suggestion to televise advertisements for abortion clinics is an effort to "curb teenage pregnancies". This is not true, since an abortion clinic can only be of interest when pregnancy has already occurred. It is in fact an effort to curb live births to teenage mothers.

There is a grotesque and widening gulf in how society depicts pregnancy in mothers of different ages and classes. The pregnancy of an older, middle-class mother – a triumph over the dreaded spectre of infertility – or a wealthy celebrity is increasingly viewed by the media as a miraculous event: the world is beckoned in to relish vicariously everything from the first perceptible flutterings of foetal limbs to the gloriously expanding size of the bump.

If a 14-year-old girl should fall pregnant, however, sentimental cooing is replaced by cold functionality. The official line from the top down is: quick, get the damn thing "sorted out". If she agrees, the bemused girl is rushed to the nearest clinic for a termination, after which she is generally supposed to shut up about it and hug her shameful little secret close. Some girls may bounce back from such an experience with relative insouciance, others may find that it haunts them psychologically ever after. Responses to abortion are deep-rooted, complicated and rarely discussed in public: it's the sorrowful, silent side of sex.

I am not opposed to the provision of abortion services, sex education or contraception. I am, however, opposed to the persistent trivialising of both abortion and sex, particularly with regard to adolescents. The Government's policy of constant nagging about contraception has not solved the problem of teenage conception at all: it has made it worse. The line has been blurred between information and tacit encouragement. Read more
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