Who is Protecting Our Children?

Last month I wrote about Plan B (birth control ) being available to teens “as young as 15.”  That’s changed.  A district judge ruled that the FDA must comply with a court ruling to “make Plan B One-Step contraceptive pills available to women and girls of any age without a prescription.”  The Obama administration had opposed children having access to Plan B over the counter, but on June 10 abandoned its opposition according to a Washington Post article.

What is Plan B?  Someone who is concerned about the possibility of pregnancy takes Plan B (one or two pills, depending on the formula) within 72 hours of intercourse.  These pills contain high doses of a synthetic version of progestin, a steroid hormone.  The idea is to prevent ovulation, or prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, or if fertilization has happened, to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.  This last result is the one that is controversial for those who believe life begins at fertilization.  It is controversial to a LOT of people that young children be given access over the counter to these hormones!

The thought that our young children could be convinced that “nothing will happen” and that a pill can be obtained to (supposedly) wipe away the consequences of a sexual act is more than disturbing to me.  In the 10 years I’ve been teaching in schools, I’ve seen the debut of sexual activity begin at younger and younger ages.  Indeed, sexual predators, molesters, or even just “players” use the excuse that “nothing will happen” (because we’ll “use a condom” or “take pills”) to pressure and persuade.  Early sexual activity simply puts children at risk of emotional, social, and physical consequences.

Young children (OUR children) obtaining powerful hormones without our knowledge seems to me to be a recipe for great hurt.

Pills Don’t Erase Consequences

You may have already heard that the FDA just approved the “morning after” (Plan B) pill for over-the-counter purchase by teens as young as 15.  Those who believe young people can have sex without consequences are applauding this decision.  But those who care about the health and emotional well-being of teens are concerned.  There is a good argument that this is just one more message we send teens that we expect them to be sexually active, and that nothing will happen if they are.

As an educator, teaching teens about how to have healthy relationships (the healthiest choice being abstinence) I have had to keep up-to-date on condoms, pills, abortion, etc. as the “alternative” practices.  Yes, this drug can stop a pregnancy from continuing, but it’s not 100% effective. In fact, ads for the drug admit 1 out of 8 women WILL get pregnant despite taking Plan B.   No pill on the market does anything to protect teens from the epidemic of STDs they face if they are sexually active.  The CDC reports that half of all next STD infections occur among young people.  Indeed, Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council commented that “Additionally… a study released in 2010 revealed that adolescent use of Plan B was correlated with an increase in unplanned pregnancies and a high STD rate.”

And of course, no “protection” offered by condoms or pills does anything to protect the human heart.  The powerful bonding chemicals produced through sexual activity affect teens emotionally in lasting ways…something ignored when our culture merely tries to erase the consequences of teen sexual activity by encouraging teens to just pop pills.

Teens Choosing Abstinence More

An April 5 press release (quoted below) from the National Abstinence Education Association tells us that there is encouraging news for those who believe that abstinence is a viable choice for teens.

A report released today from the CDC indicates that teen birth rates have decreased by 37 percent in the past two decades.  This heartening statistic begs a closer look at the trends that have aided this decrease. Most noticeably, this encouraging statistic has been the result of a surprising trend among teens that, according to another recent CDC data report, they are choosing not to have sex. 2006-2008 survey results from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that 68% of boys and 67% of girls (ages 15-17) have not have sexual intercourse and that overall sexual contact trends are also moving in the right direction. 53% of boys and 58% of girls report never having had oral, anal, or vaginal sex with anyone.

“While these statistics certainly do not mean that teen sexual activity is not an issue of concern, they do compel us to examine what is working and what is causing teens to reject the ‘everybody’s doing it” myth promulgated in the media,” stated Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA).   Huber continued, “While some argue that teens simply need access to more birth control and devices, perhaps a closer look would show us that they need more support for the good decisions they are making to abstain. Current public policy has failed to recognize and support the positive behavioral trends among teens by failing to provide resources for comprehensive risk avoidance sex education.”

The report further indicates that contraceptive use is lowest and teen birth rates are highest among Hispanic and Black teen populations. For decades sex education for these populations has been primarily a contraceptive-centered approach. “Perhaps it is time to start believing that all teens can be empowered with the skills to resist early sexual activity. Let’s capitalize on what is working and increase the positive direction of teen sexual health”, said Huber.

The Morning After?

Let’s talk about emergency contraception.

Being an abstinence program, EC (also know as “Plan B” or “the Morning After Pill”) is not something we promote or provide for our students. However, it’s important to know what it is, and what it does. If you are like I was, parents, perhaps you aren’t sure of the difference between it and the other pill – RU 486. For simplicity’s sake, today I will focus on EC, and save a description of RU 486 for another day.

What is Emergency Contraception?

EC is a pill – a high dose of hormones (also found in birth control pills). Continue reading The Morning After?

Specific Answers for Your Questions

I spent some time on Tuesday reading and clicking through a great website for parents. www.4parents.gov. It’s full of very practical answers to how to talk to you teens about various issues regarding sex. Click on the link above, and you’ll notice a menu off to the left of the screen. If you click on, “Talking to Your Pre-Teen or Teen About Waiting” you’ll find a whole new list of topics to read about. In my opinion, I think this is one of the most helpful pages.

I really like this page as well. It’s a tough topic, “What If My Son or Daughter Tells Me He or She is Gay?” but one that has come up recently in conversations.  When you read through the suggested discussion tips, parents, I would reverse the third and fourth bullet points. I think it’s more important to ask you teen his or her feelings or opinions before you (gently and clearly) state your own.

Hope you find it helpful!

Baby Mama

(The following post has been adapted from a blog I like to visit: http://learningmylines.blogspot.com/.  Feel free to check it out.)

I was visiting a favorite blog today and (aside from being reminded of those, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” games I used to play as a kid) found out that Jamie Lynn Spears had her baby and has become a new mom. She’s pictured on the front of OK! magazine, a glowing picture of health and happiness.  See?

 Now, I have nothing against this girl. Honestly. However, I don’t know about you, parents, but this image bothers me. I confess I haven’t read the article, but look at the headline! How are we supposed to teach teens abstinence when this is what they see?

 I encourage you to show this magazine to your teens and dialogue with them about the message it’s sending. What’s positive about this situation? (There are positive aspects to this story, certainly.) What’s negative? What do your teens think about what they see? What is communicated as right or wrong about this situation? How does Jamie Lynn’s experience line up with the experiences they’ve known?

If a good conversation results, try talking like this more often with your teen. It will be good for you both, and may help them swim against the cultural tide.

Contraceptive failure: user error?

I recently became aware of a statistic from the National Survey of Family Growth. In a study on Contraceptive Failure Rates from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the data show that about 1 in 5 teenage females using condoms as birth control will become pregnant within the first year of use. That failure rate (20%) is much higher than the clinical tests for condoms, and inconsistent condom use is usually blamed for the high rate.

Interestingly, the failure rate increases significantly for cohabiting couples, even within the same age category. For teenagers (age < 20) who live together and use condoms, 51-71% (depending on socioeconomic status) will become pregnant within the first year.

The jump in unintended pregnancy for those couples living together is startling. These teenagers are receiving the same education about condoms and contraception as their non-cohabiting peers, and are making the same choice to rely on condoms, but the difference in lifestyle choice has a dramatic effect on their ability to avoid teenage pregnancy. Apparently, knowing how and why to use condoms does not reduce unintended pregnancy as significantly as choosing not to cohabit before marriage. This says to me that lifestyle education and encouraging positive lifestyle choices (such as abstinence) is far more beneficial to reducing teenage pregnancy than simply educating teens about condoms.

How Young Is Too Young For Birth Control?

So you go to your 13 year old daughter’s room at 9:00pm to say goodnight to her. Her door is cracked and you sneak a peak before you proceed. You see her put something in her mouth and chase it down with a glass of water. Concerned that she may have a headache or something you say “Sweetie, what’s wrong?” Startled, she replies “Mom, what are you doing?” You reply, “I saw you taking aspirin…do you have a headache?” You look down at the package on her nightstand, only to discover that what she took was not aspirin, it was birth control. Continue reading How Young Is Too Young For Birth Control?