L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

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19 February 2008 Blog Home : February 2008 : Permalink

Sterilization != Contraception != Good Idea

Fay Weldon, in one of those sounds like a good idea at first glance ways, has proposed a mandatory contraceptive implant for all females between the age of 12 and 17. Or at least to be slightly more accurate she is supporting and extending an idea from ZANU Labour minister Dawn Primarolo, who is now minister for public health. The idea is that giving these girls a long term pill at age 12, that lasts about five years, so that they will therefore not become teenage mothers on welfare etc. etc.

The problem is the silly woman calls this temporary sterilization. If I wanted a phrase that would cause every chav in the country (and let us be quite clear here we're talking about the chav girls here, not the middle/upper class ones) to reject the idea then I reckon that would be it. If you called it long term contraception as the government has done then it will be considerably more attractive that calling it sterilization. Indeed some bint in the Grauniad's Comment is Free called Emily Hill goes after Fay Weldon mostly, as far as I can see, because she doesn't like the wording and the fact that it has come from someone who is perceived as an ex-feminist. In other words in typical guadianista fashion attacking the (wo)man not the ball.

Having said all of that I don't think that mandatory contraception is a good idea. For once I think that the government has a sensible idea - marketing voluntary take up of long term contraception. Not for the first time I think the Daily Mail's spin and improvement is a completely nuts idea.

The problem here is that later on in Fay's column she starts getting things right. Incentives matter and the welfare state has so skewed incentives that it actually makes sense for a subsection of the British population to be an unwed teenage mother. To add to the problem, the education system is clearly to blame because it fails to give these girls (and their boyfriends for that matter) the desire to improve their lot or to be able to think about long term consequences. Or even teach them to do the sums well enough to understand that living on a welfare handout is not the way to long term prosperity and happiness. Moving the incentives back some way so that teenage girls (and/or their parents) have a strong incentive to not get pregnant would be a really good idea and if we combined it with voluntary long term contraception (as in incentivised it so that girls / parents wanted to take it and remove a long term worry) that would be even better. But a mandatory "You Vill Take Ze Pill" law is going to backfire badly and will in fact probably take down the whole long term contraceptive idea with it - even though it is a reasonable idea.

Of course our guardianista doesn't address any of those issues. She just wrings her hands about the betrayal of former feminist Fay and proposes no solutions at all.