Tuesday, August 25, 2015


... and Contra·ception

Family planning and birth control have been hotly debated in the public forum since long before our time.  Abortion is a particularly volatile part of the discussion.

"Life begins at conception."
"Life becomes human at 'quickening'." (the time of first movement in the womb)
"Life begins at birth."  No one has actually said that, but their practices suggest that's the marker.
"It's just a mass of cells."
"It's a fetus, not a baby."
And my recent favorite, "Planned Parenthood doesn't sell baby parts, you ****ing idiots."

We each have strong thoughts about the issues, particularly the parents among us, but some objectivity helps.

The first issue:  "I need to not get pregnant.  What do I do?"

The solution to that is simple and difficult at the same time.
     As a start, don't get pregnant (or impregnate) until you're ready.
  • Don't have sex until it's appropriate.  There's much discussion on when that might be.
  • Don't have unprotected sex.  More discussion and more reasons.
  • If you're going to have sex but don't want to get pregnant (or impregnate anyone), use birth control.

The chart addresses contraception in early adolescence.  From
New Zealand, the descriptions includes comments about the
coverage in their healthcare program funding.
Sex education was thought to foster restraint and appropriate behavior leading to fewer unwanted pregnancies.  It hasn't, and studies differ over whether it may have increased sexual activity among minors along with the number of unintended pregnancies.

We shouldn't expect schools to solve this one for us on their own.

Community clinics for women were expected to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, but with similar results.  Some clinics have evolved into something other than was hoped.  Clinic counselors for Planned Parenthood have been videotaped offering advice to minors on sex shops to visit and illegal ways to avoid parental notification.  Parental involvement has suffered.

In an interesting development in the international HIV/AIDS world, both treatment and prevention have been recently combined in programmatic planning.  It costs $1500 to treat a patient and $20 to prevent infection, it was discovered.  After years of being focused on the cure, prevention is finally on the planning table. Prevention is the larger part of a long term solution.

Similarly with unwanted pregnancy, treatment after the fact is costly and fraught with physical, ethical, and psychological risks.  Prevention is relatively easy and inexpensive to address.  Again, prevention is the larger part of a long term solution.

Parents!  Pretending our children are not going to face extraordinary pressure in their social environment is naive and irresponsible, and the media adds to the early sexualization of their otherwise innocent thinking.  Perhaps it's time to consider how we might prevent the trauma and longer term consequences from occurring in the first place.

If my kids had to travel afoot, alone across the savanna inhabited by dangerous carnivores, I'd at least ensure they were properly trained and equipped for the danger. How might we train and equip our youth for the equally dangerous environment of 21st century amorality?

What information do our kids have?
  • In a study of youth ages 12 to 17 who had abstinence education, young people's definitions of abstinence included many sexual behaviors while consistently avoiding only (vaginal) intercourse. In a study of college freshmen and sophomores, 37 percent described oral sex and 24 percent described anal sex as abstinent behaviors.
  • In a recent poll, 32 percent of U.S. teens did not believe condoms were effective in preventing HIV and 22 percent did not believe that birth control pills were effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • In the same poll, 66 percent of teens said they would feel suspicious or worried about their partner's past, if the partner suggested using a condom; 49 percent would worry that the partner was suspicious of them; 20 percent would feel insulted.
  • Sexual Risk Behaviors among high school students surveyed:   • 47% had ever had sexual intercourse.    • 6% had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13.  • 15% had sexual intercourse with four or more persons.  • 34% had sexual intercourse with at least one person during the 3 months before the survey.  • 41% did not use a condom during last sexual intercourse.   • 14% did not use any method to prevent pregnancy during last sexual intercourse.     • 81% did not use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy during last sexual intercourse. 
References. Reference hhv.gov Reference cdc.gov

Few countries in the world address the sexual and reproductive health needs of their young people.  There is much controversy over the issue of adolescent sexuality and often a cultural disinclination (or inability) to address the issue directly.

Nonetheless, regardless of culture, age, or marital status, young people need complete information about their body functions, sex, and safer sex, plus sexual negotiation and refusal skills.  Without information and understanding, young people are forced to make ill-informed decisions that will potentially have profoundly negative effects on their lives.  What else do they need?
  • Parents need to know: libido often rises before character and understanding are adequately informed to lead the way.  Early and thoughtful attention to character issues and decision making may help equip the child to deal with the powerful feelings that will come with the emotional and physiological equivalent of intoxication following puberty.  
  • The character qualities of self-determination and moral decision making can be viewed as a contest of values between family and local society.  While family has the early advantage, the real contest begins with broadening socialization via the media and friends.
  • More?  Is a narrowly religious approach effective.  Does 'just say no' address the concern adequately?  Is there a larger vision than 'don't get pregnant'?
Stay ahead of the issue.  Prevention is the larger part of a long term solution.