Maine law outlawing sex could prove dangerous

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

Amy Julian

In Maine it is illegal for children under 14 years old to engage in sexual intercourse, even if their partner is also a minor and the sex is consensual. If these children ask for birth control methods from a healthcare professional, that person is required by state law to report this. The minor faces legal consequences. If the professional fails to do so, he or she will also.

While it may seem to be irrelevant to Massachusetts, what is alarming is that we have followed in a number of past bills first signed by Maine. Could this mean that we will soon see the denial of birth control to individuals under 14 in the Bay State? And if so, what does this mean for taxpayers?

I am not taking saying that children should have sex. When I have kids, I will try and keep their chastity belt under lock and key. I am not condoning statutory rape. Sex with a minor involving a party over 18, or any nonconsensual sex, is a crime. But no matter how one feels about 14 year olds having sex, whether we tell them not to or not, teenagers do it. Sure, we can raise children with values, but some (not all) teenagers are so eager to fit in they are going to have sex no matter how much education they receive. The American Academy for Pediatrics has even estimated that 33.9% of fourteen year old have reported engaging in sexual intercourse. To cut off the resources available for teens to protect themselves and to shun talking about it further perpetuates the idea that sex is shameful and should not be discussed. And by making it illegal, two problems are created. Those children who do have sex are not going to report it or ask for contraceptives, the equivalent of a vandal asking for more spray paint to tag up the local 7-11. Also, teens are notorious for wanting to go against authority, create a little friction with authority. Knowing something is illegal is just reason enough to do it. Sex becomes the proverbial “red button” and teens are eager to push it.

If we create an environment where children cannot ask for birth control methods, such as condoms, the Pill, sponges, patches, injections, and more, it creates an environment of secrecy. The average age of puberty continues to decline, now around 10.5 years in females and 11 for males, and the biological possibility exists for young children to get pregnant. Without being able to ask about birth control, children who are having sex will simply go without it. If they don’t receive any, bad things could happen. Without mention of my political beliefs (I think political fanatics, regardless of party, are nuts) conservatives are often the ones who try and forbid minors from having sex, who when they do in fact have sex and get pregnant are the ones who are telling the children to keep the babies and raise them. How can a 12 year old raise a baby? By the time the mother is even old enough to drink legally, the baby will be 9! Abortion stance aside, we should stop this predicament before it even enters radar range.

With an increase in teen pregnancies as a result of limited or forbidden birth control, tax payers shoulder the brunt by paying more towards welfare programs for teenage mothers. Welfare would be the only reasonable resource for the teen parents, as many would not be of legal age to even apply for a job, nevertheless find time between raising a child and school. Our tax dollars go to supporting these teen parents, and the more teen parents there are the more taxpayers pay.

How do we prevent this? Prevent the pregnancies by providing available birth control regardless of age. I understand that contraceptives are not free, and to hand them out, health officials, clinics, and other resources have to rely on state-issued funds for reimbursement of the inventory. Look at it this way: would you rather be spending a fraction of your tax dollars on funding birth control options for teens or spending more to feed, clothe, and care for the child that results from the lack of contraception?

The bill has only been passed in Maine. But the issue could very well come down to Massachusetts like many have. Again, I am not promoting sex or sex between minors, or even pro-choice or pro-life arguments. I am simply saying that what Massachusetts needs to do is continue (and further increase) the amount of available birth control to teens, and not let age (or race, income level, or any factors of the like) dictate a person’s access to contraception.