By Taylor Armerding
— When are females younger than 17 considered girls? When they want an aspirin from the school nurse. In that case, the nurse needs permission from their parents. After all, legally they are juveniles - still children.
But when those same females want to buy a "morning-after" birth-control pill, they are considered "women" - adults who should have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, free of any parental interference.
That is the Through-the-Looking-Glass world we now officially inhabit.
Yes, the definition of young teen (and even pre-teen) females has been bouncing between child and adult for some time, depending on the political issue, but now it has been given an extra sheen of legitimacy from a court.
Federal District Judge Edward R. Korman, of New York's Eastern District, recently overturned the 2011 decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to restrict access for girls younger than 17 to Plan B and other "morning-after" contraceptive pills by requiring that they have a prescription.
Korman declared Sebelius's decision to be, "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable."
This was, of course, "a big victory for women," in the words of Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. But she wasn't the only one shaping the terms to fit the agenda. National Public Radio reported that the judge had ordered that morning-after birth control be sold without a prescription to "women of all ages."
Gee, based on that, why not just retire the term "girl"?
And they call it a victory for "science." The monstrous absurdity of it would be funny, were it not so tragic for young girls, their families, and society in general.
Apparently, Judge Korman and those who applaud his decision believe that as soon as a female's body is able to conceive, science says she is a woman, with all the accompanying mental and emotional maturity of adulthood.
For starters, I'm wondering what that is going to do to laws that say a girl age 16 or younger cannot legally consent to sex. What is the point of a law like that for "women"?
Beyond that, shouldn't women of all ages - especially since they have a legal right to control their own bodies - be allowed to drive a car? Their vision, motor coordination, and reaction times are probably better than at least a third of the adult population. No need for arbitrary and capricious things like learner's permits and restricted licenses - these are women we're talking about!
Why shouldn't these "women" be allowed to vote? To hold a full-time job? To decide for themselves, without parental interference, that they would like to drop out of school? To move into their own apartment? To drink alcohol? To marry whomever they choose at whatever age they choose? What's the problem with a 12-year-old bride?
I seriously doubt that even Judge Korman would say yes to any of those. I suspect even Nancy Northrup wouldn't. They'd probably label anyone who did as crazy.
In those cases, these young females suddenly morph into "girls" - children who should be restricted from activities that an allegedly enlightened society has decided they are not mature enough to handle. In areas like alcohol use, driving, and voting, you can read scholarly scientific studies that note the obvious - that the brains of adolescents are still developing and are dangerously short of sound, adult judgment.
Apparently, politics trumps that kind of science.
You, my outspoken fans and equally outspoken critics, know I rarely agree with President Obama's policy decisions. But on this issue, he is absolutely correct. I applaud his willingness to say what any sane adult would say in these circumstances - that it violates "common sense" to let juvenile females make potentially life-altering decisions on their own.
As Dr. Marc Siegel, associate professor of medicine at New York University, noted recently, these circumstances are when a doctor should be involved.
"A good doctor knows how responsible her patient is, what the risks of taking a drug are, and whether a medication such as the morning-after pill is being used appropriately for an unexpected emergency or is actually encouraging more reckless sex and promiscuity," he wrote.
And even if most young teens use it appropriately, Siegel cites studies that show those who don't can suffer from vomiting, cramping, or excess bleeding.
Whatever happened to the "if-it-saves-even-one-life" mantra from the left-wingers who are applauding this decision?
Labeling a girl a woman, even if it is a judge doing it, does not make it so. Ask any caring and concerned parents of a 14-year-old girl if their daughter is a woman and they will likely ask if you are joking.
Most of them think even their 17- and 18-year-olds are children. I can't count the number of times when, as a local newspaper editor, frantic parents would call or come into the office, desperate to keep news about the arrest of their offspring out of the paper. "He (or she) is just a kid," they would declare, sometimes in tears.
I took no pleasure in telling them that in the eyes of the law, their kids are adults.
"Your problem is with society, not me," I told them.
A judge who declares that kids are adults when it comes to sex and emergency birth control is not doing anyone any favors, especially these vulnerable young girls.
- Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.