Cassidy Goodson, 14, allegedly took the life of her newborn infant moments after giving birth in the bathroom of her home in Lakeland, Florida. She apparently used scissors to pry the infant from her body into the toilet. She had hidden the evidence of her pregnancy from her mother by wearing loose fitting clothing. Her mother found the remains of the victim in a shoebox under the child’s bed.
Cassidy is being charged with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse. There is still some debate as to whether adults that knew of her condition will be charged in connection with the crime. She supposedly killed the child because she did not know what to do with it.
There is no excuse for what this young woman did to her infant, and the brutal way in which she did it. We can however, look for reasons that it happened as it did, and find ways to change the outcome in similar cases.
The most rational way to handle matters of sexuality is to arm children with the knowledge of the consequences of their actions. An adequate understanding of sex and intercourse would go a long way towards preventing pregnancy. Conservatives love to claim that arming young people with knowledge only exacerbates the problem by encouraging them to engage in sexual behavior. This is like saying that teaching kids about finance would only make them go and spend money. Perhaps, instead, it would make them save and invest their money. Once people are armed with information, they are better able to make sensible decisions about their future.
It would have been far better for all concerned if Cassidy had aborted the foetus before the problem went too far. An abortion in the first few days or weeks after pregnancy is far better than what actually transpired. The problem is that many states make it nearly impossible for children to obtain an abortion. States restrict a minors rights to an abortion without parental permission, causing many children to hide their condition from parents or other adults.
Children who are victims of rape, or incest are forbidden from seeking an abortion without first approaching their parents, who may have religious or other reasons for denying the procedure. Most children would not know of procedures whereby they can obtain a courts permission for abortion. The adults who may have guardianship, adoptive or other parental rights may be the perpetrators of the child’s pregnancy, and would thus deny permission for an abortion.
These children face enormous obstacles if they do not have adequate support systems, whether from parents, schools, or the courts. It is a societal problem that we need to confront in order to prevent events like this from recurring. Children need to be armed with the knowledge of what their rights are, who they can approach, and be able to make decisions about their own bodies, rather than relying on permission from adults. This type of tragedy has happened too often in the past for us not to do something to prevent it. Punishment of the perpetrator is not the solution to the problem of teen pregnancy, it is societies solution for the crime of murder.
Teens should have ready access to contraceptives, provided as easily as possible, including in schools. Prohibiting access to contraception will only exacerbate the problem of teen pregnancy. Any animal, including humans, has only one ostensible reason for existence; to survive long enough to reproduce. Attempting to halt reproduction is futile. It is far better that we ensure that children understand how to prevent pregnancy if they are compelled to experiment. Denying them access to contraception and to knowledge is not a well thought out strategy.
We need to understand the pressures in a teenagers life and attempt to mitigate them, arm them with knowledge, give them access to neutral advice and support. A society based solely around punishment is insufficient to handle complex problems.
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