Tough Questions in the Age of Trump: Answering Difficult Questions
By Ruthie Kolb, Training Manager
December 8, 2016
Recently, many educators and other caring adults have approached me with their concerns regarding talking with young people about access to reproductive health services. In light of the country's current political changes, people are worried how youth rights to reproductive and sexual health care may be affected. So this week, I am going to address a difficult question you might face considering the political concerns behind it:
What is your favorite form of birth control (and where can I get it)?
This question, along with similar questions about abortion, pose two separate quandaries for us educators. The first is what I referenced above: our own uncertainty in the current political climate. And the second is that this type of question can ask us to divulge personal information and values. Let's approach these dilemmas one at a time:
Many adults are currently not sure how recent political events will affect access to reproductive and sexual health services
It's safe to say that Republican policies and the president elect’s statements do not tend toward providing broad access to reproductive health services and sexual health education. For example, many people have gained access to birth control through the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has promised to repeal.
In the last several weeks, I have been asked by many adults, “If or when the Affordable Care Act is repealed, will young people still be able to access the sexual health care they need?” or “What about abortion access? How quickly will that be removed?”
These are very real concerns of which we need to be aware. But what’s more important to remember in these discussions is how these topics are affecting young people. Post-election stress, even trauma, is very real, and we need to be mindful of how we discuss topics like this that can potentially cause great anxiety for the students and young people in our lives.
So when we discuss issues like reproductive rights and comprehensive sex ed with young people, it is critical to focus less on “if”s and more on the now. Yes, if the Republicans can actually come up with something to replace the Affordable Care Act with (and at the moment that’s a large “if”), access to contraceptives could be in jeopardy. But access to contraceptives is still available now, and in Colorado, access to LARCs is funded through the state budget and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, if a case comes before the Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade, access to legal and safe abortion could disappear. But the likelihood of that happening is very low, and again, abortion in Colorado is currently legal, accessible, and safe. And yes, it’s safe to say that Trump and Pence are not supportive of comprehensive sex ed programs. But comprehensive sex ed is protected in Colorado under our state laws (HB13-1081), as schools are barred from receiving Title V funding which is directed towards abstinence only programming.
In short, it is only stressful and harmful to young people to focus so intently on worst case scenarios that haven’t actually happened yet, and in many cases are actually unlikely to affect Colorado residents. So instead of focusing dialogue with young people on messages like “if this happens, then the worst case scenario will occur,” remember to be mindful, and that it is far more productive to focus on the now and refer youth to clinics in their area if accessing birth control or other reproductive health services is important to them. You can check our state map to find clinics in your area: (http://coloradoyouthmatter.org/resources/colorado-data-and-resources)
They are personal questions about our own opinions and values
Questions about your personal opinions can feel so hard to avoid. You can’t just say “I’m not answering questions about myself” or “I’m choosing to keep my privacy,” because that may shut down the young person asking the question by implying that they asked the wrong sort of question.
Furthermore, the question topics we choose to deflect may send subtle (or not-so-subtle) messages of value. For example, if you deftly evade answering all questions about abortion, what might that avoidance tell a student in your class who has had an abortion? It's possible that your unwillingness to answer these questions will imply that having an abortion is an experience worthy of shame or judgment. You may think that by refusing to answer these questions, you are avoiding imposing your values on your students. However, silence gives a very loud statement of values.
So how do you answer these questions?
In questions such as these, I like to appreciate that they considered me a trustworthy decision-maker and point out that these decisions vary from person to person.
So, to answer “What is your favorite form of birth control (and where can I get it)?”
Thanks for asking this really important question. I appreciate that you are bringing this up for everyone to consider. The thing about birth control is that people and their bodies, needs, and situations are so different. And the reasons they might get birth control are also varied. Some people want birth control because they are sexually active and do not want to be pregnant, while others use birth control to help with acne, heavy periods or cramps, endometriosis, and many other issues.
All this is to say, what works for one person will probably not work as well for you. And we want to help you find the best answer for you.
So, here are some questions that may help you decide which birth control you want to take:
- What are your values around birth control? Often people’s values contribute to their birth control decisions. Do you have beliefs or values that would influence whether you want to take birth control or what sort of birth control you want to use? Do you have parents, guardians, or other trusted adults in your life with whom you could discuss your values around birth control
- What is your goal? Why are you wanting to take birth control? Is it to prevent pregnancy, or to help with other issues?
- How much does efficacy matter? Some birth control is more effective than others. Do you need something that works over 99% of the time or is 95% ok with you?
- Do you want to have something that is short-term but you have to remember to take (like Depo or the pill), or something that is long-term and you can forget about (like IUDs and the implant)?
- If you go to your Title X clinic, they can help you figure out what sort of birth control is right for your body and situation.
What do you think of that answer? Is there another way that you would answer it?