Why Yes, Emergency Contraception Should Be Available to Teens
Photo by quinn.anya/Flickr
This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations suggesting that doctors give emergency contraception to kids under 17 years old to have on hand in case they need it. (Like, in case of an emergency.) The guidelines also state that doctors treating young patients can and should begin talking to them about safe sex when the patients are as young as 10.
Unsurprisingly, this has gotten some conservative panties in a wad. One commenter at the LA Times noted that sex is bad, m'kay?:
BradGates at 12:42 PM November 26, 2012
by the SAME logic, we should issue body armor to schoolchildren to protect them from other children who cannot resist the tempation to come to school with a gun and start shooting.
OR ... maybe .. JUST MAYBE ... we should indoctrinate our children that teen sex is bad. OMG that would shock the "enlightened" elite.
Another over at CNN argued that teens really don't want to have sex as much as they want to make their parents happy, and that daughters (no mention of sons!) should be kept as pure as the driven snow:
Abstinence is the only true method of birth control. The idea that teens will always fool around is crazy. Proper parental supervision is necessary to keep you daughters pure and save them from the evil temptations in the world. Know where your daughters are at all times and don't allow them to be somewhere without a chaperone. Instill in them a deep sense of morality and purity. Teens do push the limits but almost all of these teen pregnancies could be stopped by stronger parental involvement.
No doubt more right-wing responses can be expected within the next few days, with predictable points about how if we make contraception more available, teens will just want to screw each other even more than they already do, and how if they have a reliable pregnancy prevention method on hand they'll just fuck like bunnies without condoms and the world will come to a crushing, sudden end.
Of course, none of these arguments are true. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research organization devoted to studying reproductive health, the primary reason for teen births dropping between the years of 1995 and 2002 was because kids had better access to contraception, not because they had less sex.
That means that the AAP's new regulations are actually in line with science, which is a factor that anti-contraception, anti-sex-before-marriage folks often don't seem to care much about. We'll all recall, for instance, when George W. Bush's federally funded abstinence-only education programs were found to contain gross misinformation, like that abortion can lead to suicide and that heavy petting can cause pregnancy.
That's not to say that abstinence itself is bad; not in the slightest. Abstinence works, and kids (and adults!) who want to practice it should by all means have at it. But it shouldn't be the only way that we help teenagers prevent pregnancy, because for lots of them, it's not realistic. Instead, the AAP is right to suggest that we arm them with facts and reliable contraception methods so that they can take responsibility for themselves.
Besides, it will be good practice for if and when they do actually choose to become parents.