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Why We Need To Be Better About Teenagers and Contraceptives

According to the World Health Organization in 2019, 55% of unintended pregnancies among 15-19 year-old girls resulted in abortions. In low- and middle-income countries, 12 million births result from unintended pregnancies among this same age group.


Several factors lead to adolescent pregnancies, abortions and unsafe births. For one thing, contraceptives are not easily accessible to adolescents. Even if they are accessible, not everyone is knowledgeable about existing contraceptives, and some may even be unable to afford them. Many laws and policies prevent minors from obtaining contraceptives. I believe that allowing adolescents to obtain or choose what contraceptives they want to use will lower the rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. 


According to Davtyan’s case review in 2000, about 44% of sexually active adolescents use oral contraceptives. In most states, minors are allowed to obtain birth control pills without their parent’s consent or their knowledge. Although most birth control is covered by insurance, people may decline insurance coverage due to the fear that contraceptives will show up on the insurance statements their parents receive. Organizations like Planned Parenthood allow adolescents to get birth control without having to see their primary care provider or have to use their insurance. However, some states do not allow services like those at Planned Parenthood. 


Condoms are another common method of birth control. They're more widely accessible and can be purchased over the counter. According to Trussel and his colleagues in 1999, condoms are more likely to fail among minors compared to people over 19. Minors simply lack knowledge on proper use and removal.


Some schools provide sex education when students are in 5th grade, others when they're in 8th. Such courses should allow adolescents to make an informed decision on the type of birth control that would be best for them. Without necessarily violating principles of abstinence, this allows teenagers to practice safe sex and protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. 


According to an ACLU article, studies have shown that making contraceptives easily accessible does not necessarily lead to an increase in sexual activity. When schools provide condoms readily available in public places, students are less likely to have ever had sexual intercourse compared to schools that do not provide condoms. 


It's important for teenagers to be able to make their own decisions on birth control. Safety and health are paramount. Accessibility in poor communities, ineffective education and policies that inhibit birth control need to be addressed. In fostering better SexEd and contraceptive access, we won't encourage sexual activity among minors, at least not in any measurable way. Rather, we'd ensure that when some minors inevitably have sex, they can do so safely. 


(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.)


Sources:

“Adolescent Pregnancy.” World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-pregnancy. Accessed 8 Aug. 2023.

Davtyan, C. “Evidence-based case review. Contraception for adolescents.” The Western journal of medicine vol. 172,3 (2000): 166-71. doi:10.1136/ewjm.172.3.166

“Preventing Teenagers from Getting Contraceptives Unless They Tell a Parent Puts Teens at Risk.” American Civil Liberties Union, www.aclu.org/documents/preventing-teenagers-getting-contraceptives-unless-they-tell-parent-puts-teens-risk. Accessed 8 Aug. 2023. 

Trussell, James, et al. "Medical care cost savings from adolescent contraceptive use." Family Planning Perspectives (1997): 248-295.

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