but it's revolutionary nonetheless, because free birth control means it's free. you need only go to a doctor (also free and freely available—I made an appointment one week in advance and waited only 15 minutes for the appointment once I arrived. I paid nothing to see the doctor.) I imagine that in major urban areas where the population density is higher and there are fewer doctors this would not be the case (in terms of the waiting and the ease of appointment) but the free part, at least to see the doc, would be the same. and he told me to see the chemist at the pharmacy. which pharmacy? I ask, thinking there will be some sort of limit on where I can go, who I can see, etc. Well, perhaps there is a limit, if you consider that he told me to go to the closest pharmacy to my home, two blocks down the road. I didn't get the sense that I was required to go there, though, just that he chose that one for convenience.
so then I thought that perhaps there were limits on who could get this free contraception in terms of age-limits. so I did some digging (not a lot, mind you) and found this patient information site that involved an argument about how best to make sure that teens came in to get the contraceptives so that they wouldn't get pregnant. Here's the advice they were giving to GPs:
Under 16s Guidance from BMA and others states that 'the duty of confidentiality owed to a person under 16 is as great as that owed to any other person'.
However, there is complete right of confidentiality where issues such as abuse and child protection are involved. Guidance also states that 'any competent young person, regardless of age, can independently seek medical advice and give valid consent to treatment'. Following the Gillick case the Department of Health issued the following guidance on providing contraceptive advice and treatment to young people under the age of 16: A doctor needs to be satisfied that:
(Dept. of Health 1986 guidance on the provision of contraceptive advice to young people under 16 years old)
- That the young person could understand his advice and have sufficient maturity to understand what was involved in terms of the moral, social and emotional implications.
- That he could neither persuade the young person to inform the parents, nor to allow him to inform them, that contraceptive advice was being sought.
- That the young person would be very likely to begin, or to continue, having sexual intercourse with or without contraceptive treatment.
- That without contraceptive advice or treatment, the young person's physical or mental health or both would be likely to suffer.
- That the young person's best interests required him to give contraceptive advice or treatment or both without parental consent.
wow. it had always seemed silly to me that in the US the debate was over abstinence and forcing kids not to have sex, when what it should be about is making sure that stupid acts, like those we all did as teens, don't end up utterly changing your life, taking choices away from you, putting you in situations that you aren't prepared for. and teens do stupid things. and when we don't give them any respect in their own choices as they begin to make them, when we take away their ability to choose something smart, that just seems societally irresponsible, nigh suicidal.
of course, the free health care thing means this is possible in the UK and not in the US. but it doesn't have to be that way. we could at least allow greater access for those under 18 to get contraception, for free. because there's always trouble when the unwanted child comes along and you have to drive four states over to get the abortion, which you waited too long to get anyway (out of shame and you're supposed to abstain, right?) and you don't have the money for it (raising the child or getting rid of it) and now forget college, forget pulling yourself up out of poverty. you've been ignored and forgotten.
revolutionary. that's all I'm saying.