By S.C. Torrington
Not all those fireworks you might have heard last July were in celebration of Independence Day. Some of the uproar was in response to recommendations made in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) updated teen pregnancy policy published in July 2005 issue ofPediatrics, its peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Highlights from “Adolescent Pregnancy: Current Trend and Issues,” state current research indicates that encouraging abstinence and urging better use of contraception are compatible goals. Omitted from its 1998 policy is the statement that “abstinence counseling is an important role for all pediatricians.”
Reactions were mixed, but many groups, such as the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, found the AAP’s new policy a disappointment. Recommendations that, while doctors should encourage adolescents to postpone sexual activity, they should also ensure that all teens have access to birth control including emergency contraception or “the morning-after pill,” have raised safety concerns.
The AAP does encourage parents to educate their children about sexual development, responsible sexuality, decision-making and values. But what resources do families have available to help discuss relationships, sex and birth control including abstinence?
Here to Help
The Department of Health and Human Services released a series of online communication tools for parents with a focus on sharing the message of waiting to have sex with their teenage children. The website, www.4Parents.gov, offers links to information regarding sexual development, mental health, risky behaviors, establishing house rules, getting expert advice and downloadable guides for parents and teens. The parent guide Parents, Speak Up! provides suggestions for what to talk about with your teen, when to talk about it and how to talk about it.
The Nemours Foundation’s Division of Health and Prevention Services offers answers and advice for families about teen life, including birth control, at the website, Kidshealth.org. Abstinence is presented as the most effective method of birth control and STD prevention. But the site details other methods and their effectiveness, including birth control pills, condoms and withdrawal.
Advocates for Youth, a national non-profit organization that creates programs and supports policies that help young people make safe, responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, has released a new campaign, Keep It REAL, supporting the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act.
Introduced to Congress, the Act would provide federal funds to support “responsible’ sex education in schools—science-based, medically accurate and age-appropriate information about abstinence and contraception. A virtual toolbox at the website www.advocatesforyouth.org provides educational materials.
For most Maryland children and adolescents, that “responsible” sexual education comes via their public school health education program. The Family Life and Human Sexuality aspect of the Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum explores the family unit in elementary school and transitions to puberty, abstinence and other contraception, pregnancy, prenatal care and parenting for middle school students.
This multi-faceted curriculum seems to incorporate the new policy recommendations written by the AAP’s committee chaired by Dr. Jonathan Klein.
In a press release that accompanied last year’s Adolescent Pregnancy study, Klein said, “Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy.”
Families whose teens do choose chastity have innovative and inspirational seminars and programs available as well. Particularly popular is “Romance without Regrets,” an abstinence-based seminar by Jason and Crystalina Evert, full-time apologetics with Catholic Answers and members of the Board of Advisors for the National Abstinence Clearinghouse.
The mission of their nationwide Pure Love Clubs (PLC) is to create a sexual revolution of purity. Their website, www.pureloveclub.com, details information about how to form a local PLC and schedule a talk as well as links to like-minded organizations, including the Medical Institute for Sexual Health. Sample letters to a future wife or husband plus Commitment Cards are also available.
Parents can be the most influential people in their teen’s life. Having access to diverse resources regarding sexual education allows families to engage in informed and intimate discussions and make decisions based on their own family’s goals and values. BC