Hilary Legge, ‘Doah Managing Editor
December 5, 2012
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with the recommendation that the emergency contraception Plan B should be preemptively prescribed to teens under 17 in case they are put in a situation where they need access to it. Currently, Plan B is available over the counter to those 17 and older at most pharmacies.
The goal is to lower the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. Pediatricians are hoping that if they become a resource for teens to ask questions about sex, they may become better educated and be able to better protect themselves.
Some fear that such easy access will make Plan B go from being a secondary, emergency option to being plan A, and be casually used in place of other forms of contraception. On that, I agree. There are times, such as when your contraception fails, when it is wonderful that Plan B exists. However, it should not replace that first form of protection. Which is why access to contraception for teens — and really everybody — should be expanded as well.
Perhaps instead of giving teenagers an advanced prescription, Plan B should simply be available in pharmacies to everyone, regardless of age. Similarly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that oral contraceptives be sold over the counter without a prescription.
Were this to ever happen, it would help those teenagers who may not be able to talk with their parents about sex or birth control, but still wish to protect themselves. There are still issues facing this, such as at-risk women unknowingly taking the pill and the cost were it offered over the counter. But, if it were done in a cost-effective manner, it could be one of the best moves toward reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortion in this country.
On top of that, better sex education in schools, or as in some cases, any sex education in schools, so teenagers can know what they’re facing and adequately prepare themselves. Someone has to teach kids these things, and far too many parents act as though their teenager having sex is the most traumatic thing in the world.
The fear that educating and talking with teens about sex will put ideas in their head and make them more likely to have sex is absurd nonsense. Teens are going to have sex if they want to, they always have and they always will. The reality is that those ideas are in their heads whether you’re educating them on the risks or not. And, ignoring reality will not change it or make it go away.
To most rational people, the smartest and safest way to handle teen sex is by giving them as much information as possible so they can protect themselves and not get stuck in a terrible situation. However, when it comes to sex — especially teenagers having sex — Americans on the whole are not a rational bunch. For some reason, we’ve never been quite able to shrug off those uptight, Puritanical beliefs towards sex, much to our own detriment.
Sex is not a bad, scary, dirty thing. It is something almost every one of us is going to do at some point in our lives, so why do we stigmatize it so? We need to stop acting as though teenagers having sex is this terrible, damaging thing. Yes, there are situations where teenagers have sex before they are ready and end up regretting it, but perhaps if there were more open, honest dialogue happening on the issue, those situations might not happen as often.
This is something that is not going to go away, no matter how much some people might want it to, and we have to be able to talk about it. The American Academy of Pediatrics may not have it exactly right on this issue, but they are at least trying, and in doing so are opening up a dialogue about what needs to be done.