Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Teenagers Should have Anti-Pregnancy Tools

Obama's Justice Department today filed notice that it will appeal a Federal court's decision to allow 15-yr olds access to so-called "Plan B," a form of emergency contraception, which the FDA recently ruled was safe for girls of that age and older (Washington Post). While few want 15-year olds to be having sex, unless you are part of the Warren Jeff's clan, the issue isn't whether you want "your" daughter to have sex, or an "abstract" girl, but how can we, as a society, decrease the teen pregnancy rate. Arguments about abstinence education aside, scolds of poor parenting, and the older generation complaining about the wild, thoughtless youth of today, there are very practical steps that we can take to limit the risks that youth pose to themselves, one of which is to provide them access to contraception. Studies are convergent--providing access decreases rates of STDs and teen birth rates. It is naive to hand-wave at the loose morals of society, and believe that if we just yell louder about kids having sex too young, that the problem will go away. We have been trying that method for decades with little success, especially in the states that are least progressive when it comes to sex education. In fact, teen birth rates have gone down in the US, but primarily only in states that provide access to contraception, which includes a knowledge of how to use it, i.e., comprehensive sex education (Hall and Hall, 2011; Kohler and Manhart, 2008).

A quick look at recent CDC data on teen birth rates (Table 1 below), reveals the staggering details of the problem that many in our society fail to grasp. This CDC table indicates not only the rates of teen birth by age, but by how many children by age. Look at the table for age 16, 3rd child--your eyes are not deceiving you--there were 69 live births to 16 year olds that were the 3rd child just in 2010 alone here in the U.S, and 8 births that were the 4th child. To a 16-yr old. None of this data even considers abortions figures. If social conservatives want to decrease abortion, then call Obama and, as you have for the last 5 years, oppose him--ask him to reconsider his directive to appeal the Plan B decision. You can continue to work on various "moral" programs to limit teen pregnancies. But in the meantime, let's agree that providing every reasonable tool contributes to the solution.

Age of Motherunder 1515 yrs16 yrs17 yrs18 yrs
1st child4,37212,97131,11654,83684,632
2nd child743861,9186,45716,355
3rd child713695381,990
4th child23833202
5th child-131120
6th child-1-17
7th child----1
8+ children---23
Source: CDC, Vital and Health Statistics, 2012

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