The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

On bullshit and backrooms

When I was 13, my father told me that if I got pregnant, not to bother coming home. To be honest, 20 years, a career, and many fights with him later, if I got pregnant now, and wasn’t with the father, I would approach talking to my Dad with some trepidation.

So, it’s probably quite lucky I wasn’t sexually active at 14. Because if Judith Collins and her ilk had their way, I’d have had nowhere to turn. I wouldn’t have been able to access a counsellor, without fearing they’d talk to my family, ending any relationship I might have been able to forge with my parents. (My mother would probably have been more supportive, but I still wouldn’t have told her.) Likely, I would have ended up in a dangerous situation, with a backroom abortion, hiding it from everyone I knew, for fear someone would tell my family. Without support, without counselling, without proper medical attention. So, frankly, I read that story, and think, ‘there but the grace of God’.

And let’s face it. I’m lucky it never happened, and I am privileged that one conversation in a car, though something I’ve remembered for the rest of my life, was the extent of it. Because this isn’t about the health and well-being of young girls. It’s about control, plain and simple. (Incidentally, that quote that Bill English has about Panadol? Unless it has significantly changed since I was at High School, is bullshit.) Changing this law wouldn’t change my life one iota. But forcing a pregnancy on a 15 year old girl because her parents are anti-choice nutbags? Would.

Aside from anything else, the thing that most annoys me is that THIS ISN’T A FUCKING STORY. It’s bullshit journalism. It’s fucking awful journalism, and while I hesitate to give it more legs, it deserves to be called out. One woman, discovered her daughter had had an abortion, and instead of talking to her, and dealing with it as a family, she went to a newspaper. The newspaper then decided that the Bob McCroskies of this world don’t get enough coverage and column inches, decided to make it a story two weeks in a row. So they went to a minister, but conveniently forgot to mention that said minister has actually nothing to do with this, that her portfolios DON’T FUCKING COVER THIS ISSUE. Then, get a quote from a catholic, on the record as anti-choice, minister for good measure. Don’t look at the actual numbers: “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.” But you can’t look at the actual numbers, because it would show that this REALLY ISN’T A FUCKING ISSUE. So use that 3950 number, because that’s a big, scary number.

But hey, props to Paul Hutchison, the one person (including the journalist) who actually knows something about this issue for giving a sensible quote.

Backbench National MP Paul Hutchison, a former National Women’s Hospital obstetrics and gynaecology consultant, said debate on reproductive health was essential. “That should come before this issue. We have to tread lightly, doing everything possible to have the parents involved. But having worked in places like National Women’s, where I saw women who had been beaten by their families because of an unknown pregnancy, that’s why the law is there.”

Maybe there is some hope.

23 responses to “On bullshit and backrooms

  1. Deborah May 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Fantastic post, Tallulah. I’m so sorry that your dad was so unsupportive. Thank you for sharing this story – it’s so important that the other side of side of the story gets out there.

  2. @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

    As far as contraception for young people goes, I like the idea of anyone with daughters having a big f-off pile of condoms in the bathroom, the girls can help themselves to. I was sexually active at the age of 16 – but I remember my only advice to my friends if they wanted to have sex was “Would you feel comfortable asking someone for the morning after pill?”.

    Abortion is always a sad topic. I know this far too well. It’s something that needs to be legislated for, to help the girls and women involved, NOT to protect their families.

    The only time a counsellor should be telling ANYONE about what goes on in a session, in my humble opinion, is when the person attending a counselling session talks about putting their own lives, or those of other people, at risk. (Segue into a debate of whether a collection of cells is a “person”…)

    • Emma May 23, 2011 at 10:09 am

      As far as contraception for young people goes, I like the idea of anyone with daughters having a big f-off pile of condoms in the bathroom, the girls can help themselves to.

      And boys! Anyone with a teenager. This is actually something I need to do soon myself.

      • @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 10:13 am

        I hate to say it, but anyone with a child approaching puberty, almost. An old flatmate had a consentual experience with a girl at the age of 8. I don’t think the parts involved fully worked, but still. Kids have bodies. They find out they do weird stuff.

      • tallulahspankhead May 23, 2011 at 10:20 am

        Man, I would never have taken condoms out of a bowl in the bathroom, assuming there was a very strict count being kept on them. Maybe just a massive box in their bedroom?

        • @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm

          My thought was such a large amount no-one would ever be bothered counting them. And in the bathroom, so as not to suggest embarrass the kids…

          • Isabel May 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm

            I have friends with a teenaged son who keep a large stash in a cupboard and go to great lengths not to notice how fast they are disappearing 🙂

  3. Emma May 23, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Twice in my life, I’ve been a support person for a friend having an abortion. Once an adult, once a teenager. In one case, I was the only person the girl involved told. In the other, she told a few people, but neither told any member of their family.

    Twice, I was in a position where I had to think about What I Would Do. Even though my mother would have been totally supportive if I’d needed to have an abortion, I still wouldn’t have told her. For all kinds of reasons, adults choose not to tell their families about their health issues. So why the underlying idea that parents should be told if their daughter needs an abortion, whatever the circumstances?

    And yes, the potential for horrific abuse is completely freaking obvious. That’s why the law is as it stands. Also, Judith, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re the Minister of Police. NOT the Minister of Health. Perhaps you should stop making public statements about one of your colleague’s portfolios? No?

    • tallulahspankhead May 23, 2011 at 10:11 am

      I believe it comes under Justice, not health, or so I am told.

      That’s another part of the bullshit reporting. They went to her because of the amendment she backed in 2006 (?), but failed to mention that, and called her the minister of police, as if that gives her some special authority on this issue.

  4. @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I must add, the female doctors and nurses in the community, from what I have heard and experienced, are mostly amazing. Although I do know of a nurse saying to a girl “So you don’t use contraception ever, then?”. No, the condom broke, and the morning after pill failed, thanks very much.

  5. @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 10:06 am

    BTW, I’ve had two terminations. One at 21, I told my mother about 5 years later. That was the condom breaking/ morning after pill failing situation. The second was a 1/25,000 genetic abnormality. What can I say, I’m a lucky girl :/ Anyway, if this had happened to me at a far younger age, I would have wanted to CHOOSE to tell my parents. And in a situation where a girl has the trust of her parents, she’s highly likely to talk to them about it. But if she doesn’t, that’s where a counsellor has a very important role.

    • tallulahspankhead May 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

      Thank you for sharing that, Anna.

      • @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 10:15 am

        Welcome. Happy to discuss it anytime, this year. Have told a few of my more religious “Abortion is evil” friends. Basically, if you were certain of having a miscarriage, wouldn’t you want to choice of not remembering it?

        • tallulahspankhead May 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

          Given my own experience, yes, I would, absolutely.

        • @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

          And then there’s those sad situations where girls have been abused and will see many, many counsellors in their life, but talking to their parents, at the time, would crush them. This is the saddest, saddest situation, I think. These girls need to be protected.

  6. Isabel May 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I’ve been thinking about this both from the perspective of a former teenage daughter and from the perspective of a parent.

    I had very supportive and liberal parents and I would probably have told them about an unplanned pregnancy BUT I would probably have waited until after I had decided what I wanted to do about it. I knew my mother would probably have wanted me to terminate and, while that was an option, I would have wanted to make my own decision without influence in either direction and it would have been very important that my confidentiality was protected until I was ready to talk to my family.

    For my kids I would LOVE to think that they would always come to me with any difficulty they might be facing but I know there are times when they may prefer to talk to someone else and my feelings are way less important than them getting the help they need in a timely fashion – even if that help involves a medical procedure. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be hurt and worried by not being involved in an important decision, because I really would be but, in the end, my kids’ welfare is more important than my sensibilities.

    • @missannajane May 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

      I’ve heard letting go is the most difficult part of motherhood…

      • Isabel May 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm

        I can’t rank the hardest bits of parenthood (and the hard bits are often intricately entwined with the best bits) but the conflict between wanting my children to feel free to choose their own path and hoping that they will grow up to share the values I find important is massive.

  7. Stef May 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I actually think this is more of a long-term media strategy from family first than just one random mother TBH.

  8. robertguyton May 23, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Authoritarians get livid when people do things that weren’t sanctioned by them. Acting without their permission is the unforgivable sin for the likes of Judith Collins et. al.
    Girls must not take matters into their own hands. If they do, they must be shamed and stripped of their dignity. Eh Jude!

  9. Pingback: The 37th Down Under Feminist Carnival « Boganette

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