There is no “pendulum”

There’s a nice (if by “nice” I mean “obscene”) piece of framing from Bill “I had no problem having a large family while collecting extra housing allowance from the taxpayer” English on the SATANIC UNDERAGE ABORTIONS issue:

If a school doctor wants to give a pupil a Panadol, they have to tell parents … It is time to swing the pendulum back in favour of parents

The “pendulum” is a fascinating insight into how those who would deny pregnant teens basic medical confidentiality think:  that teens and parents are inherently oppositional forces, and that the preferential treatment of one force – in this case, teens – is just a natural imbalance that needs to be corrected.

They of course can’t see the massive cognitive dissonance in arguing that the “pendulum” is too far in favour of teens … while using “parents have to give consent for Panadol” to back up their arguments.

And they can’t even begin to consider that maybe viewing themselves and their teenaged children as natural enemies, looking on their children as strange alien beings whose motives are inscrutable and who must be forced into line … might kinda be one of the big throbbing reasons their kids don’t want to fucking include them in discussions about sex and pregnancy.

Teenagers under 16 don’t get to have abortions without parental involvement because one day somebody just decided “hey, let’s experiment with the idea of giving teens this level of control, push the “pendulum” out there and dial it back after a while”.  They get to have abortions without parental notification because some parents are fucking evil bastards who are abusive and controlling and dangerous.  They get to have abortions without parental notification because pregnancy is a big fucking deal and only the person whose body it’s happening in, whose body will be irrevocably changed by it, who might fucking die from it, should have the right to decide whether it continues.

There is only a “pendulum” in this situation if you truly believe that the right to medical confidentiality and the right to choose whether to continue to be pregnant are not fundamental, straight-up human rights.  There is only a “pendulum” if you think an under-16-year-old’s rights are worth less than an adult’s, because they’re still the property of their parents (oh, fine, “under their parents’ authority” because that phrasing isn’t too uncomfortably accurate).

Imagine what else might be a “pendulum”.  Women’s right to vote?  Well, maybe it’s time to swing the pendulum back in favour of men, because that sure wasn’t predicated on women being men’s property.  Women’s right to be granted custody of their children post-divorce?  Maybe it’s time to swing the pendulum back in favour of husbands, because that sure wasn’t predicated on children being their father’s property.

Human rights are not fucking pendulums, Bill English.  Teenagers are not their parents’ property.  And the more that asshats like you talk about the rights of parents, the more I will feel certain that this issue is about nothing more than your need to control those you perceive as your property and the terrible fear you have of a future generation that neither needs nor wants your outmoded shit.

[H/T to LudditeJourno for further details on Bill English’s antichoice views.]


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  2. Jeffre

    I was curious about his panadol comment. Do schools really have to notify parents or is he creating a strawman there?

    • Alice

      My high school had to in the late 90s. It led to girls all having secret packets of panadol & nurofen in their bags rather than go through asking the first aider & waiting for the phone call.

  3. Tim

    Isn’t it you (rather than English and his ilk) who thinks that “teens and parents are inherently oppositional forces”? After all, the basis of your objection to needing parental consent for an abortion is that parents don’t always have their children’s interests at heart (“some parents are fucking evil bastards who are abusive and controlling and dangerous”).

    Regarding what degree of control parents should have their children’s lives: do you think parents should have no say at all? If so then I don’t understand how it’s possible to parent a child this way — that is, without providing any boundaries at all. If you say “No, parents should get some say”, then you’re implicitly saying that people under 16 years old *should* have fewer rights than adults. (Which I would argue is the more sensible answer.) As I understand it, parents are currently obliged by law to care for (feed, clothe, house) their kids up until age 18. It seems reasonable to me that in exchange for this obligation they should be entitled to some control over their kids.

    • QoT

      Actually Tim, the basis of my objection is that it’s no one’s fucking business but the pregnant person’s what medical decision they choose to make with regard to their own pregnancy.

      I love the wonderful conflation pro-parental-dictatorship people like you make between “the right to control whether a pregnant minor continues to be pregnant” and “parental control”, by which I assume you mean such obviously normal things as setting bedtimes.

      I see nothing “reasonable” about making nice vaaaaaague statements about allowing parents “control” over their children. If people think that their duties not to abuse or starve minors in their care should be rewarded with coercive control over those minors, I feel entirely happy saying those people are parenting for the wrong fucking reasons.

      Of course, none of this would be an issue if our society didn’t treat pregnancy as some magical wondrous sacred exception to basic biological experiences, but ain’t it interesting how the people who want to control all women [and non-women-identifying people who can get pregnant, but you probably don’t think much about them, do you?] are also so convinced they have some inalienable right to control their offspring?

      • Good Gravey

        The way I read your response QoT, is that there are some areas where parents should, indeed need to, have parental “control”.

        Then there are some where the child should/need have autonomy. And the difference between the two is usually pretty clear.

        The problem many people seem to face with this issue – shit with most issues – is that their mind exists in a dichotomy. It is either one or the other. Black and white. As much as people might like to think this, the world really is a multi-dimensional continuum.

        As has been discussed so often lately, the reason for the current law is to protect children from improper influence from parents. Taking a fairly extreme (but far too common) example, if the parent of the young mother is in fact the parent of the baby, then someone would have to be off the planet to require that grandfather-father to be contacted to give consent.

        A parent shouldn’t **control** their children. This alone is indicative of intent. A parent nurtures their child. Provides a safe place for them to grow and learn, to love and to live. To be there when needed, and to be absent when space is required.

        So talk of parental **control** to me speaks volumes.

        I cannot escape the view that a child that has been nurtured will want to talk to her parents about her pregnancy. Because there is trust. If she does not want her parents to know, then obviously trust is absent. And in such a case, questions must be asked why that is.

        Sorry – I think I may have rambled a bit there.

        • QoT

          No worries on the rambling, Gravey. But really, on thinking about it, no. I don’t agree with the notion of parental control – at least, not with the idea that the adult who should “naturally” or by default make necessary decisions about a minor is their parents.

          And given the context of abortion – when we’re talking about minors talking to an adult counsellor, then two [at least] certifying consultants … well, there are plenty of responsible adults involved in the process already.

      • Tim

        If you support a parent being able to set their children’s bedtimes, then you support children having fewer rights than their parents. It’s as simple as that really. This — children having fewer rights than their parents — is necessary and obvious to anyone. Do you agree? What’s up for debate is exactly what things should come under the parents’ final jurisdiction and what things shouldn’t. There needs to be a balance.

        I disagree that it’s “no one’s business but the pregnant person’s what medical decision they choose to make with regard to their own pregnancy”. The pregnant person is the person it affects *most*, by a long way, but not the only person. If that person is a child then I think there is a case for needing parental consent to an abortion, just as it’s needed for any other serious medical procedure. Just to be clear I totally accept that there are times when parental consent should not be needed (obviously if parental sexual abuse has occurred). But as I understand it, there are measures in place for judges to allow abortions to proceed without parental consent in such cases (correct me if I’m wrong).

        It’s interesting that you felt the need to speculate that I don’t spend much thinking about non-woman-identifying people who can get pregnant. In hindsight, would you say that this comment was likely to promote useful discussion about the topic at hand?

        • QoT

          If you support a parent being able to set their children’s bedtimes

          I can’t say this line bodes well for your reading comprehension, Tim. And I don’t give a fuck if you think my comment was “useful”. This is not a classroom for you. This is not a university debating competition. This is my blog, and I am under no obligation to educate you if you refuse to give serious consideration to the issues at hand (because you know, seeing a judge involves no time and travel and oh wait, I covered all that already in previous, linked, post, so correct your fucking self if you’re wrong).

          In hindsight, why the fuck are you here?

        • Tim

          > In hindsight, why the fuck are you here?

          I came here because a friend linked to your Wellywood post which I thought was amusing. But don’t worry, I won’t be spending any further time here. As you say, it’s your blog and you don’t have to treat visitors with respect if you don’t want to.

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