Minors and Contraceptives

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Introduction

Childbearing is a serious responsibility and the decision to do so must be carefully thought of. The medical field has made available various methods of birth control leaving people with opportunity to make choices. The question of when and who should access these methods is highly debated on. Professionals across disciplines such as medicine, law and religion have therefore differed on whom, how and when people should have access to the available birth control methods. Many policies therefore have been put to guide the use of contraceptives by minors. While other people argue that the minor should have access to contraceptives with the aid of the parents, others think that they should be completely denied the access to contraceptives. Recognizing many ethical considerations, minors should not be allowed to access contraceptives.

Contraceptives Compromises the Life of Minors

Minor’s access to contraceptives compromises their health. This is because some of the commonly used contraceptives have adverse effects on human health and may cause death. Boffa reports that the risk of developing a cerebral thrombosis or other intracranial ischemic stroke syndrome, in the absence of any known predisposing cause, is about six times higher when oral contraceptives are used than when they are not (Boffa p. 60). When minors are allowed to access such contraceptives, they may compromise on their own right to life and die of unworthy course.  Other than leading to diseases, contraceptives can also lead to practices of abortion should the intention for its use fail. Talking of abortion, the life of the pregnant minor  is pragmaticaly put in danger.  World Health Organization estimates that at least eight women die every hour as a result of unsafe abortion (David, et al., 2006). Statistics also show that of all abortion cases recorded in the US in the 2007, .05% were minors below 15 years and 50% are women younger than 25years. This means that availing contraceptives for minors may translate to making them vulnerable to deaths caused by abortion.  Although some abortions may be safe, the right of life is still denied because abortion is associated with many complications such as breast cancer that eventually lead to death.

According to Gudi, “women's short-term and long-term fertility as well as career and labor force outcomes are influenced by access to abortion, and/or the Pill” (p. 817). This reflects that access to contraceptives can influence the minor’s fertility outcomes and career outcomes. Minors are still very tender and they need to nature and develop their career. Some of the contraceptives used are known to impose adverse side effects on the users. Further, studies show that restrictions on minors access to contrcaeptives has led to reduced cases of minor’s involvement in abortion (Haas-Wilson p. 140)

Those supporting access of contraceptives for minors can argue that use of contraceptives lead to reduced cases of unwanted pregnancies among minors. Although ststistics shows that birth rates among American teens in 2010 reduced by 12 percent for women between 15-17 years, the report indicates that the reasons for the decline is not clear (CDC). This implies that access of contraceptives cannot be an automatic contributer to the decreased incidences of unplanned pregnancies. Additionally,  recent studies show that use of contraceptives is associated with reduced risk of contracting diseases like cardiovascular diseases (Nessa, Latif and Siddiqui p. 220). Further, a cohort study in UK indicate that oral contraceptive is not associated with increased long term risk of death from many disease conditions like uterine body, ovarian cancer, and circulatory diseases (Hannaford, Iversen and Macfarlane p. 340).  Importantly, the author notes that the benefits and risks of contraceptives may varry globally. This clearly implies that the risk of contraceptives use among minors may bring some risks.

Contraceptives and Medical Tenets

Proving minors with access to contraceptives translates to the violation of medical tenet. Such basic medical tenets include the principle of autonomy, justice and privacy. Doctors are thus expected to adhere to these ethics while practicing medicine. Medical ethics of privacy is important in ensuring that a patient seeks for intervention confidently. In the case of minor and use of contraceptives, the privacy may be compromised since some policies dictate that minors should access contraceptives with the consent of their parents or guardians. In such cases, a doctor upholding to medical ethics of privacy by providing a minor with access to contraceptives may face challenging consequences of his or her decisions. Richards notes that:

Most physicians worry about the risks of giving minors prescription contraceptives without parental consent. Parental pressure to force contraceptives on an unwilling minor is a more subtle problem. A minor who is forced to use contraceptives by a parent or guardian cannot be said to have voluntarily assumed the risks. If this minor were to suffer a stroke or other serious side effect, the physician could be sued for failure of consent. The physician should talk to the minor alone and attempt to determine if she truly wants the contraceptive. If the minor is reluctant, the physician should refuse to prescribe a contraceptive for her.

This clearly shows the dilemma that medical practitioners can face in terms of making right decisions about medical ethics when minors are given access to contraceptives.

 Medical ethics of autonomy requires that a patient be given greater power in the doctor-patient relationship, and that a doctor should provide as many information as possible to enable a patient to make solid decisions concerning a procedure (Rai, 2009 p. 121).  The doctor’s guidance is important in making decisions that would ensure right choice resulting in good. Sobel and Gert writes that “To harm oneself without adequate reason is an irrational act; as tubal ligation is an intrinsically harmful act, it must be justified by an adequate reason” (p. 841).

However, for personal reasons or religious purposes, some doctors may consider it unethical to discuss issues related to contraceptives with minors. Whether the doctor refers the minor to another professional as is expected, or fail to do so may not be important. The minor may fail to consult elsewhere and make unguided decisions. Any dangers resulting from these actions can be directly linked to the violation of the principle of autonomy.  In some nations, minors are allowed access to contraceptives only with the consent of the parent (Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, 2004). In such cases, the medical ethics of privacy and autonomy is still violated.

Access to contraceptives by minors compromises the doctors’ ability to adhere to the principle of justice, one of the medical ethics. This is because the access puts doctors in critical dilemmas.  The principle of justice requires that there be impartiality and fairness in treatment and distribution of resources (Rai, 2009 p. 130). A much-debated question is whether it is an act of justice to deny healthcare to individuals who involve themselves in voluntary risk taking.  For example, when minors carelessly engage in sex and think that they are protected by contraceptives, the impact of failure may be regarded as voluntary risk taking. If, despite appropriate advice and information about the negative impact of continuous use of contraceptives and performing several abortions a minor continues to take that risk, it can be argued that, accepting the minor’s decision is effectively observing the rule of autonomy.  At the same time, encouraging the minor to take responsibility is still taking care of the autonomy rule. However, if the minor get complications because of this behavior, a doctor would be left in dilemma whether to just to offer health care services. This is because the complications arose from voluntary risk taking. Denying minors access to contraceptive can save the doctors the dilemma of having to wonder between just and unjust situations that deserve their intervention.

Minor’s Access to Contraceptives and Societal Values

Minors’ access to contraceptives deprives them valuable attributes in a society. However, minors are an important part of the future society and risking their lives through use of contraceptives puts the future of all societies at stake. Questions of morality are issues of concern for all people and should be particularly reinforced into minors. This is because minors are still growing and developing and any morals learnt in childhood are transferred into the future. Such morals include, as simple as it may look, the intentional killing of an embryo.  Southern Cross Bioethics Institute notes that “From a moral point of view, it does not matter how often embryo death occurs. It only matters that it does” (p. 13). Of course, allowing minors to access contraceptives would increase their participation in sexual matters and thus increasing chances of conducting abortion. This is because contraceptives are not a hundred percent accurate.

Allowing minors to access contraceptives compromises societal ethics and values such as honesty, respect,compassion and sence of responsibility. Respect is one of the virtues that every person deserve in a society.  Sex being very intimate, should be done with a lot of respect. Access to contraceptives make minors engage in sex without prior thinking.  With contraceptives, sex can even occur on the first date and in those circumstances, the parties show lack of respect for themselves and towards the other. Sex at first time meeting, made possible due to access to contraceptives, brings a feeling of being used as an object for sex. Lack of respect for one another breaks solidarity that exists in a society. 

Access of contraceptives by minors can deny them the chance to uphold to responsibilty, an important virtue highly valued in every society. According to Soifer, the well-being of an individual, friends, families and the whole society depends on the ability to keep promises and fulfill agreements (Soifer, 2009 p. 543). Cases of unintended pregnancies streaming from failed contraceptives may make a male minor involved to assume his responsibility and fail to fulfill his promises to the female partner. Access to contraceptives to minors thus teaches minors reverse of societal values and virtues. However light this may seem, it is ethical to be responsible in the society.

Conclusion

Although it can be argued that access to contraceptives by minors posit implicitly infer important outcomes like reduced incidences of unwanted pregnancies and reduced risks of diseases, critically analyzing, its impacts on the practice of medicine, societal values and respect for life is greatly compromised. Based on this argument, minors should not be allowed access to contraceptives.

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