The local ad rag splashed a story across its front page this week which had been discussed, but not analysed on radio the previous week. A mother was apalled that her school age daughter had been able to have an abortion without her (the mother's ) knowledge. It was all very emotive with photographs of a madonna like teenage mother cuddling her toddler, a foetus and headlines about the PARENT'S RIGHT TO KNOW'.
In an ideal world I would agree. But in an ideal world daughters under sixteen would not get pregnant. Here are some facts about the real as oppsed the the ideal world.
I taught High School a way back in the days when teachers were forbidden, on pain of dismissal, to mention that three letter word to their pupils. Imagine my surprise when I was in the maternity ward, and in the next bed was a fourteen year old girl I had taught in Form 4 English a few weeks before. She had a nice baby boy. No visitors came to see her. And I am ashamed to say I just did not know how to respond when she remarked to me, in all innocence, "I thought if you did it with your brother you wouldn't have a baby." and she went, with the baby, back to the home where he brother, father of her child was still living.
Teachers were forbidden to mention SEX in classrooms but there was no such prohibition on staffroom talk and over the years I heard some horrific stories. Mainly they involved young girls in the power of their brothers, their fathers, their uncles, their solo mothers' boyfriends. They involved girls being kicked to induce abortion, mothers who ignored what their husbands and/or sons were doing to their daughters for the sake of peace. Imagine a girl from a home like that being told, 'but of course we must tell your mother before you have the abortion.'
New Zealand is not a nice society, some awful things go on and are concealed. My experiences are from fifty years back, now at least children have access to knowledge and school counsellors, not enough and not yet highly trained enough can help children in trouble. If the journalist who wrote the 'Parent's Right to Know' article had done a proper job of investigative journalism perhaps the headline could have been, 'Why did this girl have to keep abortion secret from her mother?'
Some enlightened schools have units where teen age mothers can finish their schooling as well as learn to care for their babies. I applaud them.