Why isn't a 14 year old girl old enough to consent to sex?

After all, we think a 14 year old should be in control of her body enough to decide on her own to have an abortion, so why isn't she old enough to consent to sex?

I'm thinking about this because of a case that's in the news today:

Kaitlyn Hunt, or “Kate,” has just refused a plea deal in a case that has focused the nation on discriminatory prosecutions and ways in which LGBT people are treated differently by some prosecutors. Kate Hunt, a high school senior who began a consensual relationship with a classmate three years her junior, when she was 17, was arrested when she turned 18 after her girlfriend’s parents demanded her arrest and expulsion from school.

The Florida prosecutor, Brian Workman, offered her a deal vastly different from those generally offered to teens in her situation engaged in opposite-sex consensual relationships. Instead of offering her a misdemeanor charge Hunt is being charged with two felonies. Her plea deal would include her being forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life, no possibility of her case being overturned or records sealed, and forced to serve two years’ house arrest.

“Hunt will appear in court June 20, and could face 15 years in prison if convicted... (source)

I'm curious what your thoughts are on the question in the subject line as well as on this case.

Tags: Hunt, Kaitlyn, rape, sex, statutory, underage

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You mean young mothers in the U.S. and most of the Western world do not get or have available to them: 

  • Prenatal care
  • WIC

(There's more - I've had to deal with social services - but the full list escapes me at this time). 

Of course I know of instances of such being tossed out of the house by their own parents - that part is sadly common - but please look at my previous statement "ANY framework of social support"  You quoted me there in fact . Are you asserting that it is common that a young mother get ZERO support? In the U.S. or Western society? I find that claim dubious at best. Can you give me the precise statistics? Remember "common" statistically is over 33%. Or are you relying on anecdotal evidence? The only thing gender precludes is direct insight to specific female-only biological functions in terms of personal experience. Saying that men "just don't get it" is not only cliched but ad hominem.  

Angelina, love you like a sister, but having raised four daughters by myself, for eight years, the youngest being 9 months old and still in diapers, please don't tell me that I "just don't get it."

 

"Why is she much to young? Humans have been having children at that age or younger for millennia".

Because now - in civilized times, we know of the damage it causes them and the mortality rate is very high. Even in developed countries.

 

Whatever's in their prefrontal cortex doesn't seem to keep them from growing up and taking on adult roles.

@Unseen: let me try to drive home my point here. There may be many 14 year olds around the world who are capable of "acting" like adults. They may take care of their siblings, cook meals, be responsible for driving a tractor, there are LOTS of ways you can say they can be adults and be responsible like adults. My whole point in bringing in the concept of the prefrontal cortex and its development is to say that while it's still developing a child of 14 (they ARE still children...) may not see the potential consequences of their actions. They simply lack the ability to for see the possibilities and therefore their judgment can be off. When girls who are 14, 15, 16 years old are experimenting with sex they aren't always fully understanding what could happen to them. 

Let me give you one example. The state I come from has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. The vast majority of these girls keep their babies. It is COMMON to see a teenage mother everywhere you look. (not exaggerating here I'm afraid). We have  multiple high schools especially set up for teenage mothers because there are so many. Many of them have gotten pregnant by older boys/men. In many cases men. If you assume that these girls were developed enough to make adult decisions and fully understand their options for birth control and to have the self awareness and self control to follow through with using it, the teen pregnancy rate would not be as high. These girls struggle to get through school and many don't make it out. 

Abortion however is available as an option and some girls opt for this. I personally am against abortion but my point is that it's available to them (typically by planned parenthood). Many girls do go for the morning after pill but most don't even take that precaution. They simply have a lot of sex and get pregnant. Once in the hands of healthcare workers they are guided and counseled to make the best decision for them. So you please tell me: what would we gain by raising the age of consent in a society like this one...here is the US btw? The age of consent is currently 17 but no one really follows it. Do you think if it was lowered there would be some kind of benefit? Or are you arguing that we should not allow the girls who do opt for an abortion to have them? What would this do? 

I do agree that the example you used to start this conversation is an extreme and very sad situation. These girls obviously began experimenting while both were considered minors and it's normal behavior. Trying the now 18 year old as a sex criminal is just absurd. It is normal for teens to experiment with sex. No problem there. But either restricting abortion to teens who get pregnant, OR raising the age of consent...neither one to me seems to accomplish the main goal which is ultimately to protect teenagers from themselves and allow them to grow up until they ARE able to predict the consequences of their actions without destroying their opportunity for a bright future by either a pregnancy they aren't prepared for, STD that are not curable, or the psychological long term damage that overcomes a person as they are sexually abused. 

I know what you're saying, but we don't otherwise take people's rights away based on their prefrontal cortex development UNTIL they've done something wrong. Even then, the condition of their prefrontal cortex isn't the reason given for limiting their rights, it's whatever they did wrong. In a free society, you typically have to do something wrong before your rights are taken away. You are talking about a form of what's called under the law "prior restraint."

I'm not suggesting that we take anyone's rights away. Quite the opposite. I am trying to answer the question at hand of: "Is a 14 year old girl old enough to consent to sex? Is the old enough to decide on an abortion?" I'm trying to address the reasons why I believe that she is not old enough to predict the consequences of her actions therefore we need to leave the age of consent higher than 14. I am also saying that her right to have an abortion should be in place but along with good council from healthcare providers who have her well-being an best interest at heart, and I am saying that while it's normal to experiment with sex we need to recognize that at 14 a young girl/boy is unable to think like an adult and should not be considered one. I am also agreeing with you that just because someone has a birthday doesn't make them a sex criminal. We definitely agree there.

So, you think that, due to less than fully developed prefrontal cortex, a 14 year old needs counseling before making a decision with long-term consequences. How do you figure on administering that since a girl can both have sex and also get an abortion without counseling if she so wishes? and if she gets counseling, being a teen, she may simply choose not to listen, as is so often the case when teens get advice.

In large part the reason for 14 year olds being able to get abortions without parental consent is the fear that the parents will beat her or otherwise punish her for having the sex in the first place.  Or they will for religious reasons force her to have the child even at risk of her physical health.

So, if we figure she's competent enough to decide to have an abortion for fear of her parents' reaction, isn't she then ipso facto competent enough under the law to be thought of as capable of giving consent to sex to anyone whatever their age?

If we still believe that parents should be parents, why not simply live with that instead of subverting it without sanctifying the child having, essentially, a secret life?

This is all a rather tough issue.  I've in the past tended towards giving the parents total control and my views on *both* of these questions are evolving and yes I *do* see the parallel.

@Unseen:...again, LOL!

So, you think that, due to less than fully developed prefrontal cortex, a 14 year old needs counseling before making a decision with long-term consequences.

Yes. I believe 14 year olds need adult guidance that is positive in all aspects of their lives.

How do you figure on administering that since a girl can both have sex and also get an abortion without counseling if she so wishes?

How do you figure that she is getting an abortion without counseling? Maybe I'm not aware of the laws/statistics but at least where I come from a girl goes through extensive medical exam and counseling before an abortion is administered. Is it different in other places?

Can she have sex? Of course. We all can. There's not much stopping that. All teens do it. But do all teens think about STD protection/pregnancy/abusive relationships, etc? Not really. Not at 14.

and if she gets counseling, being a teen, she may simply choose not to listen, as is so often the case when teens get advice.

True. But how does that tie to your point? What exactly is your stance? Where do we disagree? I'm not following the entire thread but please let me know where you think I'm wrong here so I can consider it.

How do you figure that she is getting an abortion without counseling? Maybe I'm not aware of the laws/statistics but at least where I come from a girl goes through extensive medical exam and counseling before an abortion is administered. Is it different in other places?

You obviously don't live around here!:

A federal judge on Friday ordered that the most common morning-after pill be made available over the counter for all ages, instead of requiring a prescription for girls 16 and younger. But his acidly worded decision raises a broader question about whether a cabinet secretary can decide on a drug’s availability for reasons other than its safety and effectiveness. (source)

We may be looking at a future in the US where any drug that won't kill you or is addictive may be available over the counter to anyone, any age, no Rx required.

The logical place for a pregnant teen to go is Planned Parenthood which has counseling services but, as far as I can tell, does not require them. Their philosophy seems to be, if someone wants an abortion, we'll give it to them only answering any questions they actually ask. And when it comes to answering questions, some people feel that the answer usually tends to be "When can we give you an abortion." You see, when it comes to abortions, Planned Parenthood's philosophy is pretty much if a female wants an abortion, she should be in control and shouldn't be subjected to an interrogation.

There are horror stories of girls who have even reported sexual abuse, got an abortion, and were sent home with birth control pills, with no one reporting the abuse. Read about some in this NY Times article.

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