Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I Told You So

From the department of "I told you so!", forcing teens to get their parents' permission before getting contraception will do nothing to scare youngsters off having sex and may in fact increase rates of teen pregnancy. Trying to frighten teenagers about the risks of pregnancy also doesn't work (emphasis mine):

[U.S.] researchers said their findings support the argument that teens need to get good information about contraceptives, including condoms, and argue against current federal policies pushing abstinence-only education.

"The research published today shows abstinence-only does significant disservice to American youth by increasing the risk of pregnancy and disease," Cynthia Dailard, an analyst at the nonprofit Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank, told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Several newly elected senators have pledged to press for a federal notification law and such laws are also in the works in several states. A study of 1,500 girls under the age of 18 who used family planning clinics, which provide contraceptive and pregnancy services, showed the parents of 60 percent of them knew the young women were using the clinics, said the Institute's Rachel Jones.

But close to 20 percent of the girls said if they had to get permission to use contraceptives from their parents, they would do without, Jones and colleagues report in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites).

"Only 1 percent said their response would be to stop having sex," Jones told the briefing.

"We need to recognize that mandated parental notification laws would not stop teens from having sex but ultimately would increase rates of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy," Jones said.

In the second study, Peter Bearman, who directs the Columbia University Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, found that fear of pregnancy did little to keep a girl from having sex, and those with positive attitudes about contraception were much less likely to become pregnant.

"Policymakers often have concerns that talking positively about contraception encourages young people to have sex," Bearman said in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

"There's a lot of research to show that's just not true. Even those adolescents who most actively believe they are not going to have sex before marriage, for instance those who take virginity pledges, 80 percent of them will eventually have sex before marriage."

I am one of the people who think adolescents, in particular young adolescents, should not have sex, because at that age the risks of sexual activity outweigh the benefits. I also think being straightforward, and providing teenagers with complete and accurate information is the best way to go about it.


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