October 26, 2011
I remember the debate, when I was a teenager, over birth control access in Portland schools. On one hand, it's positive to prevent teen pregnancy and (in the case of barrier methods) sexually transmitted diseases. On the other hand, providing birth control in schools is a tacit encouragement of sexual activity! (A worry that research suggests is unwarranted -- studies show no increase in promiscuity among teens who have condom access and education in school.) And schools aren't in the business of parenting!
When I was a teen, as the product of a very religious family, I felt only slightly different about this than I do now. I had no need of such things -- I wasn't sexually active myself. But I recognized that my classmates were, and didn't really think that it had anything to do with whether or not they could get condoms from the health center. I was in favor of birth control, though concerned about the parenting thing. Should schools be in the role of offering such advice? My opinion was, no.
Monday's Think Out Loud discussion about birth control access in Canby shows me that, despite two decades of research and supposedly loosening social norms, the debate hasn't changed a bit. Same story, different millennium. I'm a parent now, though, and I have to say that my beliefs have changed just slightly; now I believe that putting birth control in schools has nothing to do with parenting; parenting happens at home. Parenting is the stuff that should already have affected students attitudes toward sexual behavior before they get to the point of asking for birth control. I got parented in a way that kept me chaste through high school, but at no time in the process would I have gone to my parents to request access to birth control. I did not want to talk to them about sex (still don't, honestly). The more available birth control is? The more likely teens are to use it. I don't believe it has anything to do with encouraging the activity, tacitly or overtly.
Now that you're a parent, what do you think? Have your attitudes changed?