Pill Outrage

I’ve mentioned before that things are quiet here in July, so quiet that the newspaper is reduced to a pamphlet atttached to a few pages of death notices, television listings, and property pages. However, if I was the editor of Aftenposten, I’d have gone front-page with the following little nugget of a story which was tucked away to the side of page six on Tuesday. The headline ran, ‘Approves of Pill for 12-year-olds’.
It seems that prompted by a written question to the Health Minister in March, it has just been publicly admitted by the Department of Health in Norway that girls as young as 12 can get the contraceptive pill from their school health service without their parents being informed. Twelve years of age! I find this piece of information stunning – so stunning that I can hardly articulate my thoughts on the matter - and so wrong on so many levels – physiologically, morally, psychologically in no particular order.
I know Norwegians are far more liberal sexually than us Irish, Brits or Americans – allowing dating teenagers to share beds, for example – but this is an outrage.
I don’t know anyone with children of that age here, so can’t solicit their opinion, or even check whether they were aware of this. I’m very upset about it despite the fact that I’ll have fled Norway before my children hit puberty – which may or may not be by the age of twelve. I’m still without internet access at home so haven’t been able to research the topic further, but I will. But isn’t that Aftenposten’s job? I want to know since when this government approval of the sexualisation of children began, how many girls aged 12, 13, 14 and 15 receive the Pill from their school doctor or nurse, and what was the basis for deciding that 12 was a good cut-off age for the provision of oral contraceptives at school?
I presume if a 12-year-old falls at school and is concussed, their parents will be informed, but it’s none of their parents business if they are pumping artificial hormones into their bodies (and becoming sexually active, believing that as long as pregnancy is avoided, it’s OK to have sex, because that’s the only danger of under-age sex, right?)?
More than anything, I want to know why parents, teachers and doctors are not up in arms over this, clogging radio phone-in lines, filling up internet forums and basically making this front-page news. Maybe they’re all too busy enjoying their holidays, journalists included.
For anyone wondering what story did in fact grab the front page of Aftenposten on Tuesday, it was the ‘news’ that half of boat-owners here don’t bother to carry maps on their boats. Eejits. Who cares? Apparently the newspaper’s editor, or his holiday substitute, thinks we do.


Aidan said...

I am not sure that allowing the pill from the age of 12 would actually increase sexual activity at a younger age. In Holland the age of consent is 12 (as long as the partners are close in age) but that does not mean that young children are hopping in to bed with each other. The last time I read about comparative statistics on first time having intercourse the UK had the lowest age followed by Ireland.
The biggest single determinant of sexual behaviour is alcohol. In Ireland nothing may be allowed but everything happens once drink is involved.
I can see why you have medical objections to prescibing the pill from the age of 12 but there must have been some reason why the ethical committees approved it. Could it have been on the grounds of regulating the menstrual cycle? I knew a girl who was prescribed the pill for this when I was younger and she was not sexually active.

Caroline said...

I'm afraid things have changed a lot in the UK. There's loads of info to be found about UK schools dishing out the pill and the morning after pill to under 12's. As you will find when you get back online again.

As far as I understand it children in the UK and US do not need parental consent for
contraception - only sterilization.

The latest in the UK is sex education for 11 year olds - all part of the same Government program to curb teenage pregnancy.

Joanne Rasmussen said...

My daughter is 12! OMG, but seriously, she has a friends from the stables and friends from school and friends that are daughters of my friends and they are all very different. Some have their periods already and have had for the last year or so, most have boobs except mine, she is phyically and emotional much younger than her peers. Not sure why? But then again I only matured in these areas at about 14. How is the little shingles sufferer?

O.G.N said...

I don't generally buy Aftenposten on paper but is this the article in question?

If so I found it rather less alarming than you did.

In the interest of keeping the teenage pregnancy and abortion statistics under control, pupils in ungdomsskolen can get free contraceptives from the school doctor. Ungdomsskolen is generally considered to be for pupils aged 13 to 16 but those born late in a year will enter at age 12.

I believe this is mainly intended for the older ungdomsskole pupils, but 12 does make a better headline.

Five-Browns said...


Is all I can say! I was one of those girls who was prescribed the pill at 14 because I was bedridden for 2 days a month. BUT I SAW A PHYSICIAN. With MY MOTHER. And I was an exception - to hand out the pill willy nilly is absurd. I would be up in huge arms. AND TO NOT TELL THE PARENTS???? What on earth is that about??? I am with you here Jo.

Let me hasten to add though that SA schools are handing out condoms to kids from Grade 7....and its not because they are having menstual problems......

Gill - That British Woman said...

I do not agree with this idea at all.....who are these silly people who think these things up???

Gill a fellow Brit living in Canada

OSLO said...

Thank you all for your comments, a few of which I will admit have left me wondering if I'm naive and unaware of the realities of parenting 12- and 13-year olds today. That said, I'm still very against the blanket rule of providing oral contraceptives to girls as young as 12 without parental knowledge, even if only in theory. Why, when society expects me (rightly) to look after all other aspects of my childrens' care (including their health), should said children be entitled to be treated as independent adults when it comes to their sexuality? Why is it OK to prescribe girls this type of medication without parental consent, while I presume I would be consulted on the prescription of antibiotics or other forms of drugs?
I'm bothered by the following scenario:
a 12-year old with a 15-or 16-year old boyfriend feels pressure from him to go on the Pill so that they can have sex she would otherwise refuse to have because of fear of pregnancy because he knows that she can get the Pill if she asks for it (and is sexually mature). What are the chances that this boy is also going to insist that he wears a condom to protect her from Chlamydia and other STDs that could have long-term negative health affects for her? I'll admit I can't seperate this issue from the personal i.e. in five years time, if we were in Norway (or the UK by the sounds of it) my 'baby' would be treated as an adult by her school health service. I'm simplifying the issue perhaps.
Aidan, I understand what you are saying about the role of alcohol in teenage pregnancies and I certainly don’t know what the solution to this is other than restriction of alcohol for teenagers. Norway seems to have worked this one out very well, to give it credit where it’s due; a recent WHO study shows their teenagers to be among the lowest users of alcohol in 41 industriliased nations, with only 1% of 13-year olds girls having one or more acoholic drinks a week.
Caroline, I'm sorry to hear that things are such in the UK, but am happy that at least sex education is starting so early, as this was a failing in my own Irish education.
OGN, the article you linked to was from February 2008, but the one I referred to was from last week, and only amounted to 50 words. The Feb one gives a bit more context to the issue, and if I had seen it would probably have alarmed me less, but would have left me feeling very, very uneasy.
Is the secrecy from parents so essential to the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies (which after all I'm as keen as anyone to avoid)? If the Pill fails for example through inconsistent use, vomiting, anti-biotic interaction, and my daughter gets pg, won't it be me who has to deal with the mess, not the school health service?
Thank you to those who were equally as alarmed as I - Joanne, F-B and Gill. I know this isn't a simple issue, and in a way I'm speaking purely theoretically, as I hope that my relationship with my daughters will remain open and honest, and that they will come to me, before their health nurse, to discuss sex and contraception, and I'll not be judgemental, but kind and understnading and they'll go with my suggestion to wait until older to engage in sexual intercourse and binge-drinking. Oh, dear, I can only hope!
I'm glad that my eyes have been opened to it well in advance. Me thinks, this parenting lark doesn't get any easier. With any luck my girls will develop late, like me, and won't reach puberty til they are 14 and for now I will (try) let the issue lie.
Thanks again :-)

Caroline said...

Just a little story:

In 2005 hubby and I were considering moving to Canada so we took a little Look See Decide trip. We were driving around Vancouver one day when a particularly disturbing story came on the radio.

A teenager (13 or 15 but def under 16) had been stabbed and had to receive treatment in the hospital as it was quite a serious cut. He had been in a squabble with another teenager.

The hospital did not phone the mother and father as they were not legally obliged to and the boy did not want his parents involved. The mother found out when she saw him without a shirt on(a few days later)....Understandably the mother was outraged and wanted to challenge the Hospital/Government on the teenage privacy legislation.

I didn't follow the story so I don't know if anything has changed - we decided that Canada was not for us. But the point I am making is that not only do our children have more rights than we ever did as kids - but most of us don't even realize it.

I didn't until 2005 anyway - it simply never entered my mind that Governments would create such bizarre legislation.

Sometimes I'm not sure if Governments wants us to be parents or glorified baby sitters.

Victoria said...

I've been on vacation for the last couple of weeks and I'm just now getting caught up on your blog. I worked at a family planning clinic in Oklahoma before we moved to Norway. We gave free birth control to anyone who needed it (including 12 year olds) without parental consent. While I understand your feelings and the feelings of many other parents like you in the community, it wasn't usually your kids that were coming into the clinic. It was more often kids who had extremely uninvolved parents and were generally of a different socio-economic background. Quite honestly this is exactly the deomographic that we wanted to see in our clinic. Not only did we provide contraception but we also screened for STD's and most importantly - provided education to these kids about how to stay safe and healthy. I can't speak for Norway but I know in the States there are sadly, lots and lots of kids that have very little parental guidance. Often the parents have drug/alcohol abuse issues and more children than they can support. I think it is very important to provide contraception and education to try and prevent kids from repeating the same pattern.
Also, almost every kid/teenager that came to our clinic was already sexually active.