Take this pop quiz: A sexually active teen doesn’t feel ready to raise a baby, so she goes to the health clinic at her high school. Which of the following should be available to her: A. the best birth control options recommended by medical experts for sexually active teens. B. Coca Cola.
You’d be amazed at how many Right-Wing commentators just got this wrong. Or maybe you wouldn’t.
Fox and friends are celebrating summer by assaulting a teen health program in Washington State that offers young women the top tier contraceptives recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control, meaning IUDs and implants that totally tank the teen pregnancy rate (as they did in Colorado) and have bonus health benefits like cancer protection and lighter less frequent periods.
Want to know why the AAP and CDC recommend these methods for sexually active teens? On the Pill, almost 1 in 10 couples gets pregnant each year. For those relying on condoms, that’s 1 in 6, and abstinence vows are virtually useless . With a matchstick-sized implant preferred by many sexually active teens, the pregnancy rate drops to 1 in 2000! The vast majority of teen pregnancies (over 80%) are accidents, including for black and Latina girls who get pregnant at a higher rate than whites but who, if you bother to ask them, say that they have other plans and dreams.
More and more evidence shows that adolescent brains aren’t done developing, and without strong support, many teens end up with very different lives than the ones they had envisioned. When girls give birth during high school only 40 percent go on to graduate and only two percent finish college by age 30.
So, stacking the odds in favor of teens graduating high school and helping them wait to become parents when they are ready might seem like a no-brainer—but not Fox News, Breitbart and other right-leaning news outlets. Upon learning about Washington’s leading edge program, they fear-bombed their audience of aging Duck Dynasty fans with images of (mythical) 11-year-olds sneaking into school clinics to get IUD’s behind the backs of their doting parents. Commentators including Penny Nance from the fundamentalist Christian group Concerned Women for America ranted that teens who can get health services can’t get Coca-Cola on campus. OMG! GOVERNMENT OVERREACH! PARENT RIGHTS! LIBERALS HAVE LOST IT! Then they sat back and watched the social media fireworks.
What is so hard to understand about the idea that 1. Teens have a much better chance at finishing school and launching well if they don’t get whomped by surprise pregnancy. 2. Kids who have access to accurate information about their bodies and excellent healthcare are less likely to end up pregnant. 2. Not every youth has a loving supportive parent who they can trust to help them get the information and care when they need it. (In fact, some kids have a parent who is fucking them, literally, or looking the other way while someone else does.) And 3. Defenders of the Duggars and the Catholic Church who conjure up mythical 11-year-olds sluts are probably revealing more about themselves than they mean to.
For the record: Yes, Seattle youth have a legal right to independently seek confidential sexual and reproductive health care—at any age, actually. (Teens have this right in half of states.) Mind you, a pre-teen who asks for sexual healthcare alone would raise red flags. Most teens become sexually active around their senior year in high school, and the younger a kid is having sexual contact the more likely he or she is being abused or exploited.
Yes, Seattle teens can get reproductive health care in school-based clinics, an international model that has existed for a generation. And yes, in Seattle those services do include access to the same top tier contraceptive options and standard of adolescent medical care available in private clinics, regardless of ability to pay. That includes state-of-the-art IUD’s and implants that are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and CDC as the best option for sexually active teens.
In Washington State we take care of our teens even when they don’t have a wise loving parent they can turn to for assistance or permission slips—in fact, especially when they don’t have a wise loving parent they can turn to. That’s when young people most need a village that includes teachers, counselors, and medical professionals. What exactly do citizens of Foxland do if a teen has parents who are too addicted, abusive, sexually abusive, mentally ill, or estranged to help when they need guidance and care? What kind of horrid people say, Sorry, if you can’t trust your parent to sign a permission slip, then we’re not there for you either?
And P.S. No, kids can’t buy coke in school, because who effing needs it!