Emergency contraception: Free in Auckland

TV3 did a small piece tonight in its main news confirming that the Auckland DHB has followed the Waikato in approving a plan to make the morning-after pill available for free from pharmacies. (They get bonus points for cleverly putting “uh oh” on the pills in their image) This is great news for women, as unlike men they cannot just run away from the consequences of pregnancy, and emergency contraception gives them a little more sovereignty over their own body and makes parenthood something more similar to a choice than a fact of life for sexually active women. This also reduces the likelihood that young women will instead resort to abortions, which is better for both their mental and physical health, and is a little less morally gray.

Family First, as always, is taking a conservative christian approach to this issue and objecting on the grounds that emergency contraception encourages promiscuity, which I find rather disappointing. If a girl was looking for convenient ways to have sex without complications, condoms and birth control pills to prevent ovulation would be much higher up the list of convenient aides to pregnancy-free sex, with the big advantage in the case of condoms of also preventing sexually transmitted infections. This also ignores the fact that encouraging teenagers to use contraception is far more effective in preventing them from having sex.

The morning-after pill is called emergency contraception for a reason- it’s really only useful in an emergency. Suggesting that making it available to people for free makes them more likely to have sex is like suggesting fire extinguishers encourage people to commit arson- the fact is that people will make a decision (whether it’s about sex or arson) based on what they believe, think, and feel is right at the time, possibly ignoring one or two of those factors if they’re not making a large impression. If Family First really wants to discourage promiscuity, they should insist on raising the standard of sex education to make teenagers more aware of its consequences, oppose oversexualisation of (young) women in general media, and encourage child-raising to be reserved for loving, stable families.

Payin’ the Bills

Time for some catch up, ladies and gents! Apologies that I missed my followup yesterday, my internet cut off while I was writing this post. (go figure) Let’s get down to business: Vaccination and women’s health.

Once again Labour proves its health and feminist credentials by paying the $164 million bill to vaccinate girls for the human papillomavirus. (HPV) This virus is a major cause of cervical cancer in women, and women who recieve the vaccination are likely to roughly halve their chances of contracting cervical cancer. My one large disappointment is that there is no plan to vaccinate boys- while the virus very rarely has symptoms in men, (Julie from The Hand Mirror points out that it also causes penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancer in some cases, which checks out, although harmful consequences of HPV for men are rare) we can minimise the spread of HPV to people who have not been vaccinated by giving the vaccine to as many people as possible. Vaccinating girls only guarentees the safety of the girls themselves, while offering the vaccination for free to the entire population can largely wipe out the effects of the virus. Still, this is an impressive start, and parents can still pay to vaccinate their boys if they want to protect them from the very rare male symptoms, or ensure against the possibility of him carrying the virus on to his partners (male or female) later down the track. Continue reading

The Conspicuously Absent Word

Has anyone else noticed that the word “rape” is missing in action from the news lately? (both one and three on the TV, I have no clue about Prime, and the Dom is also suffering from a bout of rape-avoidance)

Not once have they described Josef Fritzl, who drugged, imprisoned, neglected, repeatedly impregnated, and essentially treated his own daughter as a sex slave as either “abuse” or “rape”. Not even with the qualification that it was “alleged”. Or even in reference to his previous conviction.

Just because a word is emotionally charged (like “murder”, which makes the news all the time) doesn’t mean you can never use it. It merely means you need to reserve it for extreme cases.

If this is not an extreme case, I would like to see what is.