Teen pregnancy: Is there a faith-based solution?
Whether Sarah Palin’s family, or Sarah Palin herself, should be a subject of commentary and scrutiny has itself become a much-debated topic. But let us agree that the issues raised by her candidacy, notably the revelation of her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy, may be a “teachable moment,” as they say. But what can we learn?
A CNS story on teen pregnancy offers sober stats but focuses on supporting teenage mothers (laudable, of course) rather than prevention, until the end of the piece:
Diane DeLong, the North Star director, said the program gives youths health education with “a strong abstinence message” coupled with extensive youth-development programs that keep the teens busy after school in sports and leadership programs. DeLong said she is tired of the criticism of abstinence programs that assumes teachers just tell youths, “Don’t have sex.” The programs are much more involved, she said, teaching young people to avoid risky behavior and to realize the consequences of their actions.
In today’s New York Times, op-ed columnist and graphics czar Charles Blow has a different take in a column, “Let’s Talk About Sex,” with an accompanying table that, well, graphically sets out the “crisis” (though some may object to that word for a variety of reasons). Clearly the United States, despite our enthsiastic embrace of faith, is doing poorly in teaching children to avoid early sex or pregnancy–or abortion. As Blow writes:
“…A 2001 Unicef report said that the United States teenage birthrate was higher than any other member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. tied Hungary for the most abortions. This was in spite of the fact that girls in the U.S. were not the most sexually active. Denmark held that title. But, its teenage birthrate was one-sixth of ours, and its teenage abortion rate was half of ours.”
Blow’s solution is less abstinence-only teaching (as studies show it is ineffective) and more frank talk about sex and greater access to contraception. “If there is a shame here, it’s a national shame — a failure of our puritanical society to accept and deal with the facts. Teenagers have sex. How often and how safely depends on how much knowledge and support they have. Crossing our fingers that they won’t cross the line is not an intelligent strategy.”
Doesn’t seem as though that is a prescription that will be welcomed a good many parents. Is there a better way? Policy or preaching? And first off, should this be a topic/target of public discussion?