Teen pregnancy prevention: it’s time to recognize the failure of abstinence-only programs

Candice Nordine, Executive Director of Project SIGHT (Strengthening Identity and Growing in Hope Together), had a letter in last week’s Nfld News. It includes:

candice nordineBristol Palin is fortunate to have her family’s support… Unfortunately, not enough attention is  given to the public policies that support these families or for programs for effective pregnancy prevention. This year alone, more than $200 million will be spent on federally subsidized abstinence-only programs — programs that show no evidence of working. Programs that do work are under-funded and do not get the wide spread support they deserve.

Since 2006, the rates of teen pregnancies in the U.S. have shown the first increase in 16 years, after a steady longtime decrease. This comes at a time when abstinence-only funding also increased and the requirements for using the funds became more stringent towards “abstinence-until-marriage” language.

Project SIGHT (“the only teen pregnancy prevention program in Rice County”) is funded by the United Way.


  1. Rob Hardy said:

    I blogged about this issue a few weeks ago.

    There seems to be a conservative fear that responsible public health measures—sex education that discusses birth control; the life-saving HPV vaccine, which met opposition when it was first introduced—will encourage sexual activity. Hormones and ignorance are a far greater danger. Ignorance and misinformation are no substitute for moral development. By all means, encourage abstinence, but don’t abdicate the adult responsibility to help teens make informed and morally responsible decisions based on the most complete and accurate information available.

    Thank you, Project SIGHT, for your good work in the community.

    September 23, 2008
  2. Peter Millin said:

    It is not the governments or the schools job to educate my children when it comes to sex, this is a parent prerogative. Schools should limit themselves to the “biological” aspect of sex education and leave the morality of abstinence versus birth control out of that discussion.
    The same goes for HPV. Too little is known as to the side effects and it only covers a small % of the possible viruses.

    September 23, 2008
  3. Rob Hardy said:

    I agree, Peter, that it is the responsibility of parents first to educate their children to make responsible choices concerning sex. I disagree, though, about the role of schools in that education. Teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases are public health problems. They have an impact on our communities, and I think we have a responsibility as communities to address them. Not all parents are equipped to have the conversations with their children that you and I might have. Children hear about sex from their peers in any case, and I would prefer them to have accurate information and informed discussions in the context of a sex-education class.

    In Milwaukee, “the city’s relatively high teen parent rate results in a depleted and less-educated labor pool from which Milwaukee-area employers can choose; contributes to higher health care costs for employers; and results in a less desirable business climate.” According to a South Carolina study, “rising teen pregnancy rates often mean other social problems end up getting worse. Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of school without graduating and end up in poverty. [The study] estimates taxpayers spent $156 million to pay for the consequences of teen pregnancy in 2004.” These social problems—problems that affect entire communities—go back, at least in part, to the failure of sex education as it is currently delivered.

    So I do think that it’s appropriate for public schools to deal with issues of public health, and to help parents educate children to make good choices as morally-responsible members of their larger communities.

    September 23, 2008
  4. Barry Cipra said:

    It might help get a handle on the scope of the teen pregnancy problem to quote from a summary of the Centers of Disease Control’s study, which I assume is the original source for Candice Nordine’s reference to the 2006 uptick (I can’t find anything more recent):

    “About one-third of girls in the United States get pregnant before age 20. In 2006, a total of 435,427 infants were born to mothers aged 15–19 years, a birth rate of 41.9 live births per 1,000 women in this age group. More than 80% of these births were unintended, meaning they occurred sooner than desired or were not wanted at any time. Although pregnancy and birth rates among girls aged 15–19 years have declined 34% since 1991, birth rates increased for the first time in 2006 (from 40.5 per 1,000 women in this age group in 2005 to 41.9 in 2006). It is too early to tell whether this increase is a trend or a one-time fluctuation in teen birth rates.”

    One note: The 2006 uptick is in birth rate, not rate of pregnancy, for which the most recent CDC report covers only the years up to 2004.

    One other note: HPV is now on the CDC’s schedule of adolescent immunizations.

    September 23, 2008
  5. Peter Millin said:

    Also from the CDC website

    A vaccine can now protect females from the four types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers and genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for 11 and 12 year-old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series.

    For those who choose to be sexually active, condoms may lower the risk of HPV, if used all the time and the right way. Condoms may also lower the risk of developing HPV-related diseases, such as genital warts and cervical cancer. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom—so condoms may not fully protect against HPV. So the only sure way to prevent HPV is to avoid all sexual activity.

    Individuals can also lower their chances of getting HPV by being in a mutually faithful relationship with someone who has had no or few sex partners. However, even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV, if their partner was infected with HPV. For those who are not in long-term mutually monogamous relationships, limiting the number of sex partners and choosing a partner less likely to be infected may lower the risk of HPV. Partners less likely to be infected include those who have had no or few prior sex partners. But it may not be possible to determine if a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected.

    September 23, 2008
  6. Peter Millin said:

    More information from the FDA



    What makes a person more likely to get HPV?

    Most people who have sex may get HPV. You are more likely to get HPV if you have:

    * sex at an early age,
    * many sex partners, or
    * a sex partner who has had many partners.
    Can I lower my chances of getting HPV?

    * You can choose not to have sex (abstinence).
    * If you have sex, you can limit the number of partners you have.
    * Choose a partner who has had no or few sex partners. The fewer partners your partner has had — the less likely he or she is to have HPV.
    * It is not known how much condoms protect against HPV. Areas not covered by a condom can be exposed to the virus.
    How long are you protected?

    Since the vaccine is new, more studies need to be done. For example, the FDA does not know if you will need to have a booster after a couple of years.

    I know the “hippie generation” has a hard time with this, but the era of free love is over..JUST DON’T DO IT.

    September 23, 2008
  7. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: Tell me when, if ever, teen sex is a morally responsible decision.

    September 23, 2008
  8. Rob Hardy said:

    David L., I think that you and I both believe that abstinence is the best choice for teenagers. It is the choice I made as a teenager, and it’s the choice I would prefer my teenage sons to make. But I don’t think we help them to make that decision if we refuse to have a full and frank discussion of the issues. We also have to be realistic. Human beings moments of weakness and moral failure. I would rather not have those moments end in an unwanted pregnancy.

    September 23, 2008
  9. Britt Ackerman said:

    Here’s a good article from the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy. I like the points the author makes in analyzing the question “Does chastity education teach sound prudential and moral lessons? How does it treat the actual interests of teenagers, and from what moral resources does it draw the duties and rights that underlie its prescriptions?”


    September 23, 2008
  10. Barry Cipra said:

    Peter writes:


    There is little doubt as to the effectiveness of abstinence at preventing pregnancy (there being just one reported case of immaculate conception in the last two thousand some years). What is very much in doubt is the effectiveness of abstinence-only education at achieving its intended goal.

    Actually, there isn’t much doubt there, either. The jury came in about a year and a half ago: A ten-year scientific study authorized by Congress in 1997, around the time it began funding a-o ed, found no significant effect of abstinence-only education in promoting sexual abstinence. In short, money down the drain.

    I would think you, Peter, of all people, would be exorcised by such a multi-billion dollar waste of taxpayer money.

    September 23, 2008
  11. Barry Cipra said:

    Oops, I meant “exercised” (in the sense of angered to action), not “exorcised.”

    September 23, 2008
  12. Peter Millin said:


    If at all, government should give educational facts and not “preach” or prefer on way or another.
    My preference is abstinence of course, does that make me blind to certain facts? No.
    Despite what some might think I used to be a teenager too. That shouldn’t prevent me as a parent trying to teach the virtues of abstinence, while having an open and honest discussion not only about contraception but the consequences of an early pregnancy…..both with my daughter and sons.

    This is not my governments job, this is my job as a parent.

    September 23, 2008
  13. john george said:

    As far as abstenence only being taught in the public school system, I don’t believe it can make that much difference in behavior among teens unless it is coupled with a comprehensive curriculum of moral applications in all areas of life. When I was growing up, when one of my classmates became pregnant, there was a shame associated with the event. In the 60’s, with the “free love” movement, it was determined that shame was a detrimental emotion for adolescents to experience. Therefore, with the advent of values clarification courses, shame was thrown out as a motivating factor. In its place, a good (whoever can define that term) self image was raised up as more important. A good self image is important, but when you remove the moral teachings as the culprit for creating a poor self image, you miss the point. The reason a person felt shame was because they had violated a moral code. To remove shame, teaching obedience is a pretty simple remedy. It’s being discussed on anotther thread, but I have yet to hear any of the Wall Street idiots who brought down the system express any remorse over it. Perhaps they have, but I have not read of it. I think a little shame in this debacle could have been preventive, but that is just my opinion.

    I have the perspective of three of my daughters and a daughter-in-law who have or are teaching in public middle or high school. I heard their opinion of the standard sex education curriculum. They were upset with the asumption of inevitability in teen sexual behavior. My one outspoken daughter expressed it this way. These kids are not a bunch of animals driven on by uncontrolable instincts. They can learn self control. Her assesment of the material was that there was no teaching of a higher moral ground. The kids were going to have sex, so we may as well just give them condoms and pills and provide abortions. What hope does this give a young person who is really interested in living differently from the world? I appreciate David L’s. assesment of teen sexual activity. When is it ever a morally responsible decision? Do those who advocate teen sexual permissiveness really think it is right?

    By the way, I think what we are talking about here is conception control, not birth control. An abortion is birth control. The other means are just what they are called- contraceptives. And, abstinence is the only 100% effective means to guard against pregnancy and STDs that I know of. The problem is getting enough societal support to actually bring about a different behavior amongst the population. We need to change the way we live.

    September 23, 2008
  14. Jane Moline said:

    David L: in #8 you asked Rob to tell you when teen sex was ever a morally responsible decision.

    Well–I had teen sex and I made a morally responsible decision. And, although I am very special and extraordinay 😉 –I think that there are MILLIONS of people who were once teenagers who also had sex and also were morally responsible, and some that are still teenagers and have teen sex and are making morally responsible decisions.

    Speak for yourself–don’t judge morality so harshly–and, this is a tough one– don’t confuse your religious beliefs with morality. The church may help guide you moraly, but it does not define morality. (Although it may for its followers–but others chose different beliefs.)

    Studies prove that abstinence only education does not work. Why are we discussing this?

    September 23, 2008
  15. Curt Benson said:

    The Project SIGHT website that Griff linked to above has some interesting information, including this:

    “From the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention, and Parenting.

    According the the 2008 Rice County Adolescent Sexual Health Report, 12% of females and 19% of males in the 9th grade have had sex. While 40% of females and 53% of males in the 12th grade have had sex.

    When it comes to using contraceptives, 30% of females and 35% of males in the 9th grade always use birth control. Of 12th graders, 72% of females and 64% of males always use birth control.

    Out of the 9th grade population who are sexually active, 45% of females and 48% of males rarely or never use birth control. 14% of females and 19% of males in the 12th grade rarely or never use birth control.

    In 2006 there were 75 reported pregnancies and 58 reported births to females under the age of 19.”

    And Nordine in her letter to the NFN wrote:

    “This year alone, more than $200 million will be spent on federally subsidized abstinence-only programs — programs that show no evidence of working. Programs that do work are under-funded and do not get the wide spread support they deserve.”

    I’d like to know which programs do work.

    September 23, 2008
  16. Anne Bretts said:

    An editor colleague of mine in Duluth once worked on its all city school reunion and did a little digging. He found that by comparing graduation dates and dates of kids’ births, he could show that a pretty consistent percentage of girls were pregnant when they graduated. The busy home for unwed mothers in Duluth also gave proof to the failure of abstinance only policies — back when the rule was a lot more harshly enforced. Research on colonial times indicated that about a third of women were pregnant when they married, and married in their teens and were dead in their 40s.
    Fact is, Mother Nature is hell-bent on reproduction, and we have screwed up her timetable. Children are marrying much later in life but going into puberty earlier and earlier, leaving all those reproductive hormones raging for a decade or more. How could anyone be surprised that an inexperienced virgin, overwhelmed by emotion and Mother Nature, might have five minutes of weakness in 10 years or more? They crash cars, break legs in dumb skateboarding accidents, come home with tattoos — and they make babies.
    We need to get real, help them as much as we can and pray or chant, or do an animal sacrifice or whatever ritual you use to give you the illusion that you can wish away the danger.
    (Yes, I was just kidding on that last line…)

    September 23, 2008
  17. Sex is every where in our society, we don’t want our teenagers to have sex but we allow the media, the music industry, Hollywood, magazines, the internet, advertisements, books, computers games to expose our kids and teenagers to sex every day.

    There is no right answer to this problem.

    September 23, 2008
  18. john george said:

    Anne- Yout touched on a characteristic of adolescents that has been talked around but not about so far on this thread. It is the need to determine whether their parents are telling them the truth or not. Much of this behavior appears to be rebellion, but I think that testing the boundaries is not, in and of itself, rebellion. Choosing to go against the directions of their parents is a dangerous thing to do as the young peoples’ horizons expand. They are relating more directly with the world around them, and, therefore, need to know how to discern things that are dangerous. Being real and open with teens developes trust. Involving them in setting boundaries and being honest about our fears helps them determine a correct path to follow. This is the key we need ot concentrate on- how to get them to take a safe path, especially regarding sexual activity.

    Sorry, Jane M. I do not believe the throw out the rules permissiveness of the 60’s and 70’s was moral. There must be some standard of morality. Otherwise, we just have anarchy. It is this immoral permissiveness that opened us up to a greater threat of STD’s, some fatal. The fact that we are dealing with individuals who are unique in themselves seems to indicate that there may not be a uniform approach that will work. I’m just speculatiing, here, but my experiences teaching my own children lead me to believe this. That being the case, it would appear to me that parents/guardians, who have a relationship with and a responsibility for adolescents, may be the best teachers. Unfortunately, too many of them check out on this because of hidden transgressions in their own lives. Single parents have an even greater challenge. It seems there was some curriculum I read about in the past that actively involved the parents in the sex education courses. If anyone remebers this, I think it would be interesting to check out.

    September 23, 2008
  19. Rob Hardy said:

    There are some interesting guidelines for comprehensive sex education set forth by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), which (rightly, I believe) approach the whole issue of sex education in the context of beliefs and values, with an emphasis on respect, dignity, and responsibility.

    September 23, 2008
  20. Jane Moline said:

    Hmm–I say that I had sex as a teen and John George claims I am advocating promiscuous sex. Sorry, John. All I am saying is that teenagers are not all about promiscuous sex–when they have the right information, they can make choices for themselves.

    It is great that you want to involve the parents in the public school education process. Unfortunately, some of the kids are not so keen on involving their parents–but those teens still deserve to have the facts.

    Abstinence only sex education does not reduce or deter teen pregnancy. Other programs do. Lets go with the other programs. If your teen has already received wisdom from their parents, going through a health class will be no big deal–and no big surprises.

    September 23, 2008
  21. john george said:

    Jane- I echo Curt’s question- what programs are successful? The reports I have read indicate that abstinance only programs are no better than those that do not advocate abstinence. Seems there are some proposals out there to mix abstinance into a conprehensive sex education program. This seems like wisdom to me. The reports I got back from my daughters indicated that the materials they were using in their schools did not address the possibility that a teenager could be taught to have self control. This is the point I am trying to make. I think Rob’s comment in post 19 is good. I’m encouraged that someone like this is running for the school board.

    I don’t know why I throw my two cents into the mix. My kids are all grown and married. I guess my motivation is to give some parent who is struggling through this phase some hope that things will get better as long as they don’t give up. Keep the communication channels open. It will reap great benefits down the road.

    September 23, 2008
  22. David Ludescher said:

    Jane: I cannot think of how having sex as a teenager is a good idea, i.e. responsible decision. There is little hope that any “sex education” is going to have a substantial effect when the education is focused upon pregnancy prevention.

    September 23, 2008
  23. Paul Fried said:

    If abstinence-only programs have been proven ineffective, the responsible thing to do is to try what works.

    Part of the problem, at least among the Catholic population (of which I am one), is this whole thing about sex and sin: Some grow up believing that it’s a greater sin to be unwed, and use birth-control of some kind to avoid pregnancy, than it is to be unmarried and get pregnant.

    Yet clearly, if one is not mature enough to have and raise a child, having sex and getting pregnant is not an example of responsibility and virtue. Perhaps this is, in fact, the greater sin from a religious view, and the lesser evil would have been to have used birth control.

    Instead, some Catholics seem to think sin is a kind of check-list: If you had sex outside of marriage, that’s X number of sin-points against you, and if you also used birth control, that adds more sin points. If you didn’t use birth control, but had sex outside marriage, then — what? — your “sin” score was lower, so you’re holier somehow? Using birth control only adds to your “sin” score, and never reduces it? This is exceptional in Catholic thought, which sometimes justifies even killing in self-defense. But birth control is always sin. Hmmmm….

    Off of the radar is the idea that conceiving a child one is not ready or able to raise might be “sinful.” Maybe this can be traced back to male property rights, and times when wives and children were treated like cattle, belongings. I don’t know.

    If it is a fact that some teens will be sexually active, do we help them by denying them birth control, which results in more teen pregnancies? Or is birth control, for those who refuse the abstinence option, the better compromise?

    As for those who claim morality should not be taught in public schools, it’s already taught there–and for good reason, and often to good effect. Teachers and para-professionals break up fights on the playground. Classes discuss current events. Staff give consequences when kids pick on each other. To demand silence on questions of morality (as it relates to sex) in public schools –where everyday ethics and morality are already taught –would be highly unnatural and counter-productive.

    But whose morality will be taught? Will various approaches be discussed, including abstinence, but more than that? I hope so. Will parents who would prefer to discuss such issues with their children be able to have their child excused from the class? I hope so.

    Or will a conservative school board impose on a larger population a kind of censorship on the topics of birth control and morality? I hope not.

    September 24, 2008
  24. Anne Bretts said:

    Paul, that was brilliant, and an accurate summary of why I quit the church. Making sex dirty and sinful is such a classic Catholic, and classic male position, so to speak. Men aren’t sent to homes for unwed fathers, aren’t tossed out of school, aren’t even forced to pay child support, much less wake in the middle of the night to care for a child. It is so easy to demand that women take responsibility…
    David, I think you’ve forgotten what it was like to be young and healthy and in love…and told to wait until you’re 25 and walking down the aisle. There’s a difference between a 15-year-old teen and a 18-year-old woman ready to make a responsible choice in her life. Abstinence only programs are popular because they allow those in charge to have proof when they are disobeyed. Babies should never be proof of failure, and women should be protected and given support in advance, not sent out into the world to prove their purity.

    September 24, 2008
  25. Anne Bretts said:

    Using birth control doesn’t preclude abstinence, any more than using seat belts means you have permission to drive your car into a tree. Why would you tell your kids to use seat belts and deny them access to effective sex education?

    September 24, 2008
  26. Jane Moline said:

    David L: I am not immoral nor am I irresponsible. I am insulted by your statements.

    I would say that a 13 year old would be too immature to make a responsible decision to have sex. When you get to the 16 year old, it becomes a question of maturity. Some 16 year olds are mature enough to make a responsible decision to have or not have sex. We would like all of our children to wait and abstain–however we cannot control them.

    I agree that abstinence education–including a discussion of morality–should be included in ALL sex education classes–including the advantages of abstinence over birth control–but that birth control must also be included. It is Abstinence-ONLY that is failing.

    September 24, 2008
  27. Rob Hardy said:

    Paul asks, “Whose morality?” I do think we have to be careful about generalizing from our own personal experience and making ourselves the standard by which others are judged. I abstained from intercourse as a teen, but that doesn’t necessarily give me the right to stand in judgment over Jane, who didn’t. She has a different story, and her decision to have sex fit into a different story of moral development. I don’t want to be entirely relativistic and say that, ethically speaking, anything goes. I believe in avoiding harm and considering the consequences to other people of my actions. I also believe in listening to and understanding the stories of other people before rushing to moral judgment. This is especially important to me since I am a man. I cannot get pregnant. I am unlikely to be raped. If I were to be raped, I would not get pregnant. Because I cannot have an unwanted pregnancy, abortion is purely theoretical in my personal case. I wish that no one ever had to choose to abort a pregnancy. But my conscience prevents me, from my position of male biological privilege, from trying to take that choice away from women. My small-town Presbyterian upbringing inclines me to certain values, which are probably quite conservative, but my humanistic education inclines me to listen to and value stories that are different from my own. The conservative in me wants to say, in response to David’s question, “Never!” The humanist in me raises a hand in warning and says, “Listen! There are stories other than your own.”

    I suppose all this may come from growing up with a Republican father and a Democratic mother.

    September 24, 2008
  28. Peter Millin said:

    Teaching abstinence only is about as wrong as passing out condoms in school. Between the two extremes we have to come up with a better way.

    Should we teach children about contraceptives, of course we should. Should we promote and teach abstinence of course we should.

    Children follow more our behavior more then they do our words. Coming from Europe I have more liberal views on sexuality then most people have here.
    One thing that still baffles me in the US, is the fact that we allow violence to go rampant on TV and Movies, but get all holy when there is some sex involved? Seems a bit strange to me.

    Maybe I should have said “legislating morality” instead of teaching morality.

    September 24, 2008
  29. john george said:

    Jane- I agree that a 13 year old is too immature to make a responsible decision about beginning sexual activity. The unfortunate thing is that many of them are. In fact, there are 11 and 12 year olds making these decisions. I have not seen any progress made in the last decade in seeing this age group deminishing their sexual experimentation. If anything, it is on the increase. If I had a 12 or 13 year old around, you can bet I would be very involved in their activities and what they were being taught at school. That is why I believe it is imperative that parents be actively involved with their teenagers, not in a smothering way, but in a real face to face way, if that makes any sense. One opinion I have about the percentages of 17 year olds involved in sexual activity is that they started earlier, in the 13 to 14 year range. In our society, as someone mentioned above, the possibility for marriage is getting pushed farther and farther into the 20’s. I think we need to be very realistic about the ten years or so that young people need to exercise self control. That is why I think it is important that it be taught. The disconnect I see is that there are fewer and fewer restraints in our society. Sometimes, it seems like trying to swim up Niagra Falls. It is very hard to direct a teen down a road of chastity when many of their friends, out of respectable families, do not have these restraints.

    September 24, 2008
  30. David Ludescher said:

    I don’t agree that teenage pregancies are “problems” which need to be eliminated. The beauty of a new life, whether intended or unintended, far overshadows the inconveniences associated with its conception.

    My perception is that the strongest advocates for a women’s right to choose abortion are the weakest advocates for a woman’s right to choose birth, especially for teenage mothers giving birth.

    That such a high percentage of teenage mothers choose to raise their own child creates it own social issues; but I would never consider those chldren to be problems.

    September 24, 2008
  31. norman butler said:

    What’s the problem here? The sex, the age, the conception, the babies, the diseases? Or must it be considered an inseparable bundle of interdependant issues?

    September 24, 2008
  32. john george said:

    Norman- Your post 31, the sex & the age precipitate the conceptions, the babies and the diseases. If the first thing at the age we are discussing was curbed, there would be a drop in the last three things. It seems pretty clear to me, but I’m pretty simplistic in my approach. I believe we need a change in our lifestyle.

    September 24, 2008
  33. Anthony Pierre said:

    david said in #30

    My perception is that the strongest advocates for a women’s right to choose abortion are the weakest advocates for a woman’s right to choose birth, especially for teenage mothers giving birth.


    Wouldn’t you agree that pro choice people prevent more abortions than the pro life crowd? And the pro life crowd has caused more abortions?

    seems silly to be so strongly against something and then not preventing it.

    September 25, 2008
  34. David Ludescher said:

    Norman and Anthony: I just think there is something odd, even morally bankrupt, about viewing a pregnancy as a failure. There is something even more odd about promoting the right of a woman to choose, and then calling her decision to keep and raise the baby a public health problem.

    September 25, 2008
  35. Rob Hardy said:

    Griff’s guidelines for discussion state: “It is best if you bring a spirit and language of inquiry with you when you visit and restrain your desire to only promote a point of view that is already formed.” This is what I try to do. I am not pro-abortion. Few people are. I would like to see a society in which every pregnancy is wanted and every child is cherished. Unwanted pregnancies do occur. Sometimes the pregnancy ends in an abortion. Sometimes it ends in the birth of a child who is not cherished as it should be, who is neglected and impoverished. This is, yes, a problem—for the child and for society. It seems to me that sensible sex education (that includes the facts about both abstinence and contraception) might be part of the solution to that problem. Prevention of an unwanted pregnancy is an infinitely better solution than abortion.

    It would be nice, David, if you would refrain from accusing people of moral bankruptcy. This does not contribute to respectful inquiry. I think that most of us are concerned with moral responsibility and with the health of our children and our society, and aren’t merely trying to score rhetorical points.

    September 25, 2008
  36. Anne Bretts said:

    Rob, thanks for your wise words.
    David, with all due respect, we who believe in sex education just want girls to have the same opportunities as their brothers and boyfriends and classmates. They need to have the opportunity to practice abstinence and still have the protection they need should they fail for five minutes or so in that 10 or even 15 years between puberty and marriage. That’s why we call it practicing abstinence. Almost nobody has it mastered.
    A child is a blessing, but a child having a child is not a blessing for the baby, the mother or the grandparents. If you had been raised by a single mother and had a baby at 17, it is unlikely that you would have finished high school, let alone earned a law degree and established a practice. Would you trade your education, career and family for the blessing of having a child at 17? Thankfully, that wasn’t a choice you had to make. (I’m not talking about the choice of abortion, but the choice between preventing a pregnancy and taking the risk of pregnancy?)
    There is something very odd about making girls who are too young to vote or drink sign a contract bear the responsibility of risking pregnancy. And we’re not just letting them risk it, we’re denying them the information that would save them. It seems a betrayal of our role as parents. As I said before, we make our kids wear helmets, use seat belts, take vitamins and have vaccinations, yet we allow girls to risk becoming pregnant? By this logic, why would we use seat belts? We’ve taught kids to drive safely, so they shouldn’t need them. If they die, they die.

    September 25, 2008
  37. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: Perhaps morally bankrupt was inartful. But, as applied to a system of thought, I think it is accurate, and helpful to reveal, what I think, is the error of prevailing thought. Let me explain.

    The “problem” to which you refer is a child who is not as cherished as she should be, and is neglected and impoverished. My solution to that problem is for the mother (and society) to cherish their pregnancy and child, if it happens.

    There are three decision points regarding teen pregnancy:
    1. Should I have sex?
    2. Should I use birth control?
    3. Should I have the child?

    The prevailing thought seems to be that numbers 1. and 3. are individual decisions which carry no greater overall societal overtones. That is, most people assume that 1. and 3. don’t really matter for society – they are valueless in the sense that to form a moral opinion is judgmental. Hence, whether or not one has sex and whether or not one has a child is strictly and individual, and non-judgmental decision.

    But, this same thought pattern seems to say that it is irresponsible of society not to teach that birth control must be used when having sex. The assumption is that the teen will have an uncherished, and ultimately burdensome child. That assumption is not only almost inaccurate (witness the number of mothers who love, want and keep their child), but is also very judgmental and burdensome for teenage mothers. Ultimately, it makes it even more difficult for them.

    September 26, 2008
  38. Peter Millin said:


    This is a point of view that I have never considered, great point.

    September 26, 2008
  39. Rob Hardy said:

    David: There is a fundamental logical flaw in your reasoning. You seem to misunderstand the meaning of choice. Choice means that there is a range of alternatives to choose from. The ability to choose a safe, legal abortion does not preclude the ability to choose to give birth and lovingly raise a child. Personally, I would rank four possible choices like this (from best option to worst option):

    1. Abstain from sexual intercourse until you are prepared to deal responsibly with the possible consequences of your action. Ideally, abstain until you are in a stable and loving relationship, and are in a position to support and nurture a child.

    2. If you choose to have sex in circumstances other than those mentioned above, use contraception.

    3. If you don’t use contraception, or if it fails and you get pregnant, carry the child to term and either raise it as lovingly and responsibly as possible, or offer it for adoption. This seems to be the choice you are advocating, David. In which case, I hope you are compassionate enough to support universal health care and other taxpayer-funded social programs that will better support many of those children and their young mothers. I agree that we should respect life and the choice of motherhood. So let’s do everything we can as a society to support those things.

    4. Abortion should always be the choice of last resort. It should be safe, legal, and rare.

    What I do not want is a return to the pre-Roe days of lethal illegal abortions, self-induced with knitting needles, or performed by unqualified back-alley practitioners. I do not want a single young girl to die of hemorrhaging or sepsis because her uterus has been perforated by a curette in a botched illegal abortion. Abortion is a tragedy. Illegal abortion was a double tragedy, since it often took the mother’s life as well as the child’s. I recommend reading Leslie J. Reagan’s When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973 (University of California Press, 1997) if you doubt the horror attendant upon illegal (and therefore unsafe) abortion.

    I can see nothing “morally bankrupt” about working, through responsible parenting and sensible sex education, to encourage choices #1 and #2, while working as a society to support mothers who have made choice #3, and leaving choice #4 open as a rare last resort.

    September 26, 2008
  40. Holly Cairns said:

    Our district 659 sends out parental forms. We sign and then the kid is dismissed from the learning. Or we sign and they participate, I can’t remember. But no one is forced to learn sex ed. You can breathe a sigh of relief. The parents do have control after all.

    Since we sign, they might as well teach more than “abstinence is the best policy.” Right? Kids should learn about pregnancy and hardships, best std and pregnancy prevention, your body and how to take care of it, etc.

    I’m for that, anyway.

    BTW, I’m not pro-life or pro-choice. I think we should ‘save the mother’ and allow abortions to be legal. Mothers who didn’t want pregnancies died in back allies. Remember? Of course, we now have birth control and back in the ’60’s we didn’t. Who’s read some Sanger? Good stuff.

    September 26, 2008
  41. john george said:

    Rob- Your comment, “… Abortion should always be the choice of last resort. It should be safe, legal, and rare…” is an excellent point. I agree wholeheartedly. The unfortunate thing I have seen happening in this country since Roe vs. Wade is the last discription- rare. There have been over 50 million babies aborted since the ruling of this law. It seems a little unlikely that these were all for unwed mothers threatened by poverty. When this ruling was passed down, the story at that time is that abortion would not become a method of birth control. It has. Most abortions are done out of convenience rather than need.

    Just a perspective from a different country, I have visited in central Siberia, and in Russia, the government will pay for abortions but not for contraceptives. Therefore, abortion is the most used birth control method in that country. I met some women that have had 15 or more abortions. This is not considered of any consequence. It might be noted that the country is basically atheist.

    The other interesting perspective in this is the imminent failure of Social Security. I read an analysis (I think the source was the Heirtage Foundation) that if even two-thirds of the 50 million babies had been allowed to live, we would not have the deficit in the Social Security program. These babies would have grown up into productive workers and would have contributed to the Social Security fund. We are facing the largest portion of population in history that will be entering into retirement. Unfortunately for us, there is a shortfall of workers to contribute to the SS program. We have essentially shot ourselves in then foot, but then, that is just my opinion, and something for another thread. Sorry.

    September 26, 2008
  42. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: I agree with most of your comments. But, I think teens are getting very mixed messages from sex education. Some of it is just confusing, and some of it is so non-judgmental (i.e. morally bankrupt) that it doesn’t help teens make good choices.

    The abstinence-only programs are failures because they teach that sex is to be avoided without addressing the strong and natural desire to procreate; hence, intercourse is a failure. The teach-them-contraception only method fails because it teaches that pregnancy is a failure.

    What we don’t teach teens is that pregnancy is actually nature’s success. The whole purpose of sex in the natural world is to reproduce. This “thing” is biologically human. It has all the chromosomes it needs to look just like the parents.

    We should also tell our children that the Supreme Court has given them a choice. They don’t have to treat this “thing” as human because it doesn’t have any legal rights.

    That would be a much more complete and accurate sex education.

    September 26, 2008
  43. Peter Millin said:

    We should also tell our children that the Supreme Court has given them a choice. They don’t have to treat this “thing” as human because it doesn’t have any legal rights.

    David I hope you are kidding……

    September 26, 2008
  44. David Ludescher said:

    Rob or anyone else: I would be interested to hear your comments regarding what we should teach our children about pregnancy. Or, should we just stop our “sex education” at contraception, and let kids be on their own? If we do teach that abortion should be rare, what education do we provide about when abortion is the best option? “It’s up to you and your doctor” doesn’t seem to provided much guidance.

    September 27, 2008
  45. Jane Moline said:

    David: The supreme court did not give anybody choice. They clarified that the federal government has a limited ability to force laws on women’s bodies. I think you need to sit in on a sex education class–it is much more than telling them to avoid contreception. Your continual urging that we should codify your religious beliefs overshadows your judgment on what is happening in sex education.

    Most people agree with you, David, that students need to hear all of the information about sex–that regardless of whether they get pregnant, they may not recover from what could be emotionally devestating. The damages of “casual sex” or promiscuous sex should be discussed–but there we go again–some may take that as tacit approval of “non casual” sex when it is not.

    So why can’t we agree that we are never going to agree on abortion–but we can agree on appropriate sex education.

    Sex education is not about abortion–it is about having facts about how your body works–and it should include discussions about hormones and the overriding EVOLUTIONARY need for life to reproduce–and overriding SOCIAL needs to not breed indiscriminately.

    September 27, 2008
  46. Nathan E. Kuhlman said:

    David Ludescher and John George:

    You both present some fascinating arguments. I feel extremely fortunate that neither of you holds much sway over how I must live my life. I feel also extremely grateful to the various unnamed educators who made my present situation possible by promoting a variety of strategies to avoid making kids. For birth control, usually my personality is sufficient. However, it’s also nice to have the security of a backup plan.

    As an aside, I find a surprising juxtaposition between people’s yammering elsewhere about ‘freedom,’ and their apparent desire to force parental responsibilities onto others. Ultimately the individual knows whether becoming a parent is the right decision; it strikes me as a bit collectivist to impute some obligation to spawn in order to repopulate the social security pool, carry on the American race, or some such rationale.

    September 27, 2008
  47. Peter Millin said:

    Schools should discuss options of contraceptives free from any bias as part of a curriculum. Which doesn’t include passing out condoms.
    Since abortion is legal it should be discussed in an “as a matter of fact” subject without bias and prejudice.
    Discussing premarital sex and it’s implication should be part of the curriculum free of any prejudice.

    Moral issues surrounding the options above are to be the parents responsibility.

    September 27, 2008
  48. john george said:

    Nathan- I hope you are also grateful to your mother that she did not consider you an inconvenience or a mistake. 🙂

    September 27, 2008
  49. Rob Hardy said:

    I think, Peter, that it’s difficult to talk about issues like sex, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion without bringing our values to the discussion. Moral education may primarily be the responsibility of families and churches, but we can’t help but bring our values into the public sphere. I think the discussion we’re having here on LocallyGrown shows that many of us have difficulty understanding the values of others and engaging in productive public discussions around value-laden issues.

    Separation of church and state is a pillar of our Constitution, but that shouldn’t mean that in public schools we can’t, in a spirit of inquiry, discuss our values and beliefs. As it is, we harden our beliefs and values in private, then bring them into the public sphere and bash each other over the head with them. We need to learn instead to have productive public conversations with each other about divisive issues.

    September 27, 2008
  50. Peter Millin said:


    Of course we cant discuss these type of issues without bringing in our values and beliefs.
    We should encourage discussions amongst the students, my point was that the school itself shouldn’t take a side either way.

    September 27, 2008
  51. Paul Fried said:

    AnneB: Thanks for the compliment way back in #24. You’re always welcome back. There are parishes like St. Joan of Arc in Mpls where “faithful dissent” is not only accepted, but even — dare I say it? — trendy.

    September 27, 2008
  52. Rob Hardy said:

    Peter: Yes, I see what you’re saying. I agree.

    September 27, 2008
  53. kiffi summa said:

    Rob: re: your post #49 …”many of us have difficulty understanding the values of others, and engaging in productive public discussions around value laden issues”.

    Key word: productive.

    Can you possibly clone yourself for the school board seats?

    What you have said is the essence of the point of PUBLIC discussion; i.e. that we all learn from one another, rather than continue to hold “party lines” without even considering the other’s viewpoint. Then after a period of listening, everyone is free to debate their case. The problem comes, when holding to what I call “party lines” infringes on others’ basic rights.

    And then what comes next, is the kind of horrendous name calling, labeling, demeaning comments, and ( Yes, Griff) intense sarcasm, that has been ongoing on the presidential election thread. It is more expected there because of the intense partisan nature of this never-ending campaign cycle,
    but this discussion was supposed to be about education, albeit on difficult subject matter.

    No one has to allow their child to participate in a class that violates their parental privilege. Holly made that clear way back a ways.

    So, what is the matter with offering ALL the pertinent factual information … as is a perceived goal in english, math, science, history … and letting these developing teen minds ask questions, sort it out, be advised by their parents … as we would in any other area of information/education?

    We must be careful of tailoring information provided in schools to a particular set of values, rather than fact: scientific, or historic, or grammatical; whatever.

    And then, as parents, we all know teens make their own choices, not always the best, but OFTEN “the best” for them, and that is how they learn.

    We, as parents, have to make sure we have tried to be the best possible guides, true to our own core morals/beliefs; trying to create a new generation that will function for what we believe is the common good.

    When information is selectively delivered, then it is propaganda, not information, and runs the risk of perverting the true process of education, and in some cases, even basic human rights.

    If I was a teen in health classes that provided only selective information, I would be saying: “Keep your “rights” off my Rights!”

    September 28, 2008
  54. john george said:

    Kiffi- Your comment, “…When information is selectively delivered, then it is propaganda,…” is probably one of the greatest challenges in any form of education, especially when it comes to any subject with “subjective” personal evaluations of situations, as oposed to an objective subject, as , say, math, where 2+2 always equals 4. One of my greatest concerns when my children were in school was being involved in their education. The reports I have gotten back from my own kids who now teach is the growing lack of parental involvement in their children’s education, and, possibly, their lives. An opinion I have is that this is a predeliction of our society to always trust “experts” in a field. I think it is commendable that there are people who specialize in various disciplines, especially medicine. But, when we parents pass off the responsibility for this “difficult” subject to the “experts” without our own involvement in our young people’s lives, I think we are asking for trouble. Someone must make a “selective” decision of what is going to be taught and how. I think this process fits your propaganda definition above. That is why I’m not sure there can be a completely comprehensive sex education curriculum without the positive and active involvement of the parents.

    Just a brainstorming thought, here, but perhaps the whole sex education curriculum should be removed from the public school setting and done, with required involvement of the parents, in a community education setting. Perhaps it is not the educators who are failing so much as the parents. I’m sure this would be uncomfortable for some, but so is a surprise pregnancy for a young person. And, I think it would be good for some parents to be shaken out of their comfort zone. I suppose, because of professional responsibilities of the parents, it would not work, but it is food for thought.

    September 28, 2008
  55. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: I agree that it is difficult to have productive public discussions regarding value-laden issues. That is why I brought up the point that if having sex and having a child are the teen’s decision, then whether or not to use contraception should also be the teen’s decision. Don’t we impose our values on the teen if we tell them they must use contraception if they have sex?

    When we give teens all the information and choices, but don’t give them rules and principles (and the exceptions) to help them guide their choices, how are they suppose to know what is the best choice? I think that we do our children a grave disservice by implying that there is no best choice, or that each teen has to decide for himself or herself.

    In my opinion, abstinence-only sex education teaches the right rule – don’t have sex. But, it offers no rules beyond that. “Contraception-only” teaches the right rule – if you are going to violate the first rule, then follow this rule. When the first and second rule are violated, current sex education stops.

    Why not teach teens about how the fetus develops, when its heart begins to beat, and all other fetal development information so that they can make a more informed choice about whether or not to birth the child? Why not tell them that the Supreme Court has determined that the fetus doesn’t have any legal rights, and how the Supreme Court came to that decision? Why not teach them the difference between the “biological human” and the “legal human”?

    September 28, 2008
  56. john george said:

    Oops! I forgot to reference one of Rob’s comments in post #49, “…it’s difficult to talk about issues like sex, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion without bringing our values to the discussion…” Now, here is realist I can identify with. Sex education is not just biology. It does involve moral decisions. I agree with you, Kiffi, about cloning him for, not only the school board, but several other levels of public service, also. Be careful, Rob. You’ll get worked to death!

    September 28, 2008
  57. Nathan E. Kuhlman said:

    John George,

    Your zinger (#48) comes right out of the Pro-Birther’s Little Book of Clichés.

    I’m sure my poor mother has considered me an inconvenience on several occasions– this writing quite possibly among them. However, as my parents were 23- year-old university graduates; married for two years and out of high school for five at the time of my birth, I can’t see that your comment regarding the circumstances of my birth has any relevance to the present discussion of preventing teenage pregnancy.

    September 29, 2008
  58. Rob Hardy said:

    David (#55): I have no objection to having as full and informed a conversation as possible, bringing in science, law, history, values and beliefs. We need to learn how to have these complex conversations without automatically going on the defensive and retreating behind partisan talking points that don’t advance the conversation.

    Let’s talk about Roe v. Wade. Let’s talk about the ancient English common law position (accepted even by the Catholic Church until 1869) that life began at “quickening,” when the mother could feel the movement of the child in her womb. Let’s talk about how technology (i.e., ultrasound) has changed this conception of “quickening.”

    Take note of the fact that the common law concept of “quickening” was based on a woman’s experience of her own body, whereas the idea that life begins earlier in the first trimester is based upon technology in the hands of the traditionally male-dominated medical profession. I think I can feel you bristling at this. But feminism has to be part of the conversation, too. It is, after all, a conversation about women’s bodies.

    I remember, at thirteen, being filled with an overwhelming sense of awe at the ability God have given me to create a new life. I was quite a religious teen. I realized that this unasked for gift brought with it an enormous responsibility. We need to make sure that all boys, Christian or not, feel this sense of responsibility for the life that they can help to create.

    September 29, 2008
  59. john george said:

    Nathan- I feel the same way about your comment in #46. That is your opinion and you have the freedom to express it. My commen (“zinger?”) in #49 is my opinion, and I have just as much right to express it. I think the attitude you expressed in your posts is one that David and I run across quite often when we try to discuss these issues. It comes through as, and these are my own words to describe it, an attitude that how could we possibly have a different perspective than you and how could we have the audacity to express it. I think Rob has the most balanced evaluation of how these discussions when he said, “…that it’s difficult to talk about issues like sex, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion without bringing our values to the discussion…” I’m sorry if my opinions offend you, but you need to realize there are other opinions out there that are differnt than yours, and, depending on how you evaluate it, not necessarily better. If I expressed my opinion in an offensive way, then let me know. I am always open to improving my communication skills.

    September 29, 2008
  60. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: I agree completely. The partisan camps exist in all three areas of teenage sex, contraception, and pregnancy.

    September 29, 2008
  61. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: I didn’t mean to imply that I only agreed with the partisanship part of your post. I agreed with your whole post.

    But, realistically, do you think that current sex education is teaching about the new discoveries of technology, and the concept of quickening? Do you really think that teens are being taught about the awe of creation and the tremendous responsibility that comes with sex?

    My impression is that most adults think that sex education should be teaching contraception control – no more and no less. In fact, the measurement tool referenced by Ms. Nordine is the rate of teen pregnancies. Perhaps those pregnancies were the result of, and a desire to, birth a child. Wouldn’t a better measurement of the effectiveness of sex education be the number of pregnancies terminated by abortion? Those are the pregnancies that are “unwanted”, and can rightly be considered “failures” of education.

    I have read that teens decide to birth their children at a much greater rate than more mature adults. Doesn’t that imply that more mature adults, and not teens, may need greater sex education, especially in the area of awe and responsibility?

    September 29, 2008
  62. john george said:

    David L.- You said, “…I have read that teens decide to birth their children at a much greater rate than more mature adults…” Do you have any documentation on that? If so, it would appear to back up my assertion that the majority of the 50 million abortions since Roe v. Wade were done for convenience rather than dire economic needs. Just wondering. I have not been able to find a comparison by age group that is any newer that 1994. I did find some information that the largest percantage, 38%, of abortions are performed for women with annual incomes between $30,000 and $60,000, so it appears that poverty is not necessarily a motivator. Also, 64%+ are done for women who have never been married. This may just indicate the popularity of couples just living together without a legal marriage license, though. Here is the link for those stats:


    There are some more interesting and more current statistics on this link, also:


    One encouraging statistic is that the total number of abortions has steadily declined over the last 8 years.

    September 29, 2008
  63. Rob Hardy said:

    David: No doubt that some teens plan their pregnancies, although I suspect that most do not. Whatever the case, they should be equipped to make responsible decisions about sex and reproduction. If they decide to have the child, they should have access to all the support they need, including regular prenatal care. If, as a last resort to terminate the pregnancy, they choose abortion, it should be safe (i.e., legal). But, before it comes to that, teens—girls and boys—should have all the facts, should understand their responsibilities, and should—yes—have a respect for life. Abortion should still be a choice, but a rare one, undertaken with a full appreciation for what’s involved, both medically and morally.

    If we want to promote a “culture of life,” we should not only try to reduce as far as possible the number of abortions performed, we should also make sure that mothers and babies have access to adequate health care, and we should make sure that children have a healthy environment in which to live. For most unborn children, toxins in the environment—some of which reach even into the womb—are a greater danger than abortion. Climate change, economic instability, and violence are much greater threats to life.

    I am in awe of human life, but I am also in awe of the fact that we share so much genetic material with other, non-human life on the planet—that all life is interrelated, and deserving of our care and respect. For some people, it’s a leap of the imagination to think of an eight-celled embryo as life. We need to make an even greater leap of the imagination, to seeing the interconnectedness of all life and understanding our responsibility for lives other than our own.

    October 1, 2008
  64. Helene Haapala said:

    It seems interesting that once again we mainly have men discussing what options women should have. hmm…

    October 1, 2008
  65. Rob Hardy said:

    Helene, You are absolutely right, of course. But I hope I have been careful to say (a) that women should have the right as well as the responsibility to make decisions regarding their own bodies, and (b) that men also have responsibilities when it comes to sex and reproduction. Please join the conversation.

    October 1, 2008
  66. john george said:

    Helene- As a father of four daughters, I feel it is definitely my responsibilty and priveledge to discuss this topic. Even though they are grown and married, I have a relationship with each of them that could be of some help to another father who is struggling to measure up. I echo Rob’s invitation to join the discussion.

    October 1, 2008
  67. Anne Bretts said:

    Helene, I’m tired of women telling men they have no say, when women can decide whether or not a man has a child, whether he has to pay child support or gets visitation — and in some cases can have a man raise a child only to find out after 10 or 20 years that it was never his at all.
    My point is that men and women have to work together on these issues, with the focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies rather than arguing over the consequences of them.
    I think the opinions here have been thoughtful, even the ones I don’t share.
    I really am torn over the support for unwed mothers. Giving so much support in housing and services encourages women see motherhood as a way to avoid the hard work of finishing college, getting a job and becoming self-sufficient.
    I don’t want girls punished, but there has to be accountability for both the mother and father every step of the way. The boy must be identified and held accountable, attending the parenting classes and taking responsibility for his child, whether or not the young parents marry.
    I think NBC did a great service with its series “The Baby Borrowers,” where young couples planning marriage were given babies, toddlers and children to practice their parenting skills. All the couples changed their minds, broke up and decided to postpone parenthood.
    I think all teens should have experience caring for children at some point, just to learn the hard work involved. One long weekend would be pretty effective in teaching the importance of responsible decisions.

    October 1, 2008
  68. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: I can’t imagine that anyone disagrees that teens should be taught how to make responsible decisions about sex. The dispute seems to center upon the definition of “responsible” decisions.

    I agree that the government (we as a group) should not pass laws and set rigid rules governing sexual behavior. Of course, when the sexual behavior causes demonstrable harm to another, the government has a duty to impose its will on the aggressors. However, the law provides little guidance on what is “responsible”.

    So, when you speak of making responsible decisions, I can’t see how you can avoid making judgmental, i.e. moral, decisions.

    Is it preferable that teens abstain from premarital sex? Yes, we have the disease and pregnancy data to prove it. Is it preferable that teens use birth control if they have premarital sex? Yes. We have the data to prove it. Is contraception a substitute for abstaining? No. We have the data to prove it. Is birth preferable to abortion? Yes. When isn’t life preferable to death? Who in their right mind wishes that he/she had been aborted?

    That does not mean that government should take away our freedoms without a substantial and compelling reason. Legislative attempts to limit sexual freedoms have not only proven to be ineffective, but also harmful.

    I think it would be very helpful for our children to have a concrete understanding that the “moral codes” that have developed around sexual freedoms are not willy-nilly rules invented for the purpose of restricting their freedoms; they are rules borne of experience and reason designed to warn of the dangers that await those who choose to stray from the path.

    Sure, we want to educate kids about sex. Why wouldn’t that involve giving them our best judgment about what is responsible and irresponsible? Surely, if we are educating them, we know better than they, don’t we?

    October 1, 2008
  69. kiffi summa said:

    You’re right, Helene, but how easily they slip into the role of pontificating about what should be ….
    Rob , you have with your discussion, thoughtful and respectful discussion, proved what will be the efficacy of your role if you are elected to the school board, which I hope will happen.
    Everyone (all you men) are entitled to your opinion, but in the end the woman is the “vessel”, the “host”, the one whose body has undergone major dramatic changes for the better part of a year, and then… sometimes in a life threatening situation… but more often in an exquisitely amazing moment … provides an entry to the world we live in.
    I am not suggesting men do not have a vital and engaged emotional role in this process; I am suggesting that in the end, it IS the woman’s body, and her choice alone, unless she chooses to share it.

    There simply is NO parallel process for a man, and that is why in the end, you need to respect our choices. Work as hard as you want for what can only be your preferences, but never your choices.

    October 2, 2008
  70. Rob Hardy said:

    Thanks, Kiffi. If you have a little spare time to read it, here is an essay of mine that was published in the mothering magazine, Brain, Child. In humorous terms, I hope, it addresses your comment about the uniqueness of the the woman’s experience of pregnancy.

    October 2, 2008
  71. kiffi summa said:

    Rob : re: the essay you link to in#70.. Beautiful, funny, and oh so tender, and longing for the experience.

    Everyone should read this piece of writing of Rob’s…

    October 2, 2008
  72. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: Your suggestion is an interesting, and ultimately a very empowering idea for women and sex education in general. It sounds very similar to the “old” way of teaching.

    Perhaps we should teach the females that they are the ones who have all the choices. They are the ones who can choose to have sex, choose to use contraception, and choose to have a child. We could also teach them what is, in reality, the truth – they can’t expect, nor should they expect, men to take any responsibility for any of these decisions. In an ideal world, men should take responsibility; in the real world, they don’t.

    Teaching the men is much easier. All you really have to teach them is that if women don’t ask about birth control, then assume that they aren’t using any. Focus the boys’ attention entirely upon avoiding becoming a father. After all, which teenage boy doesn’t want sex, and which teenage boy wants to have a baby?

    While this approach is admittedly cold and unfeeling, it has the merits of being non-judgmental and clear. It does not attempt to tell teens how to act; it tells them how teens do act.

    October 2, 2008
  73. Holly Cairns said:

    What a great idea, David L!

    Except: Monetarily, the man is responsible, and so he should pay attention to that last detail on the night of ecstacy.

    Who thinks we should let the woman die or make her give birth? That’s the bottom line. Children are so very wonderful, but government should not be the one to choose between one life or another.

    Think “partial birth abortions”. These are very rare in the US, and why are they done?

    Back to the topic of sex ed. I agree with the idea that abortion should be taught about as fact, and not as a moral issue. However, I like it when teacher present two points of view, too. For example, have the kids read a piece on the horrors of abortion, and also the horrors of the back street alley. Let the kids decide (I think it would be nice to tell the kids to check at home with their parents “Often the best source of information on tough stuff like this is at home with your parents. Check with your families. What do your parents value? Do you value that?”

    October 2, 2008
  74. David Ludescher said:

    Holly: When we try to teach kids to use contraception, aren’t we trying to teach a value – i.e. responsibility? If we value choice more than responsibility, shouldn’t we be happy when kids “choose” not to use contraception. Why the uproar over teen mothers if the mothers chose to have a child?

    October 5, 2008
  75. Holly Cairns said:

    David L., I think we teach ‘about’ contraception, etc. Not ‘to use’ contraception. Slightly different wording but it could mean a lot.

    Who says we value choice more than responsibility? I value both…

    I think there should be an uproar over teen pregnancies. That poor mom now has it rough, and in the end we all pay more because we do help some with our taxes.

    That’s where I think we could do better– helping the young moms and babies, and also helping people choose not to have abortions, things like that.

    Not mandating they can’t have abortion, but helping so they have an easier time of birthand early baby life. We have come a long way since we hid the pregnant woman away and then shuffled off the baby to some other place (shh), but there are still things to be done, I imagine.

    October 5, 2008
  76. Holly Cairns said:

    Me again, for example, early in our married life we had BCBS insurance that specified it wouldn’t cover birth for eighteen months. Before that, I was covered by my parent’s insurance (cobra) and then we married so we bought our own insurance. Rodd still in school and I about to student teach. We both had menial jobs.

    So, despite our payments, no coverage for birth for eighteen months. We got pregnant (even though we had used contraception) and found ourselves out of luck. Our Hannah was to be born one month too soon, and so if it had just been one month later… and babies are expensive! Birth alone is a LOT of money and physician visits (although no ultrasound for you since you don’t need one, especially since you don’t have good insurance) and vitamins, etc. add up. Plus, I had gestational diabetes (sing!) and so I had to drink awful stuff and get blood taken… blah blah blah.

    October 5, 2008
  77. Rob Hardy said:

    Apologies for resuscitating this moribund thread, but I wanted to share this piece from the Washington Post, which addresses this issue (in, perhaps, a more partisan way than we’ve been discussing it here among friends).

    October 9, 2008
  78. I wanted to avoid this topic for as long as possible but it’s time to chime in.
    I agree with David L and Peter M, as usual. I think that babies are neat and should be given every consideration. If a teenager isn’t ready to parent, she and he both sure as heck can get ready in a couple months.

    I once asked a doctor if there is any problem with a girl getting pregnant as soon as she started menstration. He said that the pelvis would not be flexible, or too small to birth the child. Well, for me, I have been the same size I am now since I was twelve. I suppose that doesn’t hold for all teens, so add a few years if they are later growers.

    The other thing that is wrong with this discussion is that no one has brought up the negative aspects of birth control, besides the church’s banning of it. Birth control pills alter hormone levels, at least the older ones did or do. They have been associated with various cancers. Whether or not that is true, there is the stigma associated with them. As well as the personality changes. Lower the female hormone and you have a completely different ball of wax. The condom is disgusting, it has a foul odor and is difficult to manevuer and it breaks. In the throes of passion,
    one may not take the time to install it properly, iykwim. I don’t have first hand knowledge of this, but I have been informed by my nephew. I guess there are other more mechanical insertions, but I won’t comment due to insufficient information, but I can imagine there are problems there, too.
    Vasectomy became reversable, sometimes, and men lied about that, I hear. There is a whole culture associated with this stuff beyond the classroom, and it’s called reality, life on the streets, in the trenches, as it were.
    Nature is a bigger deal than we are willing to admit. I remember being a kid wondering about this other stuff that wasn’t ever even brought up around my school or home. Yet, You JUST KNOW something is in the ethers.
    This society decided somewhere along the line that education and jobs were more important than procreation, the continuation of the species.
    Many people are still largely involved in continuing their blood lines and they are the naturalists among us. They have no objection to babies being born into their families. I thnk it’s funny when some people think all people need to do what they want them to, and then those same people don’t want people in their personal business. It’s confusing at best to a youngun trying to get aligned with society. That’s what we should be talking sometimes, too.

    October 9, 2008
  79. Peter Millin said:

    Here is another perspective.

    My sister in law got married and wanted children, but was unable to conceive.
    Adoption was the next logical option. What a journey!!!

    Besides not having enough adoptable babies available there is an overflow of older children. One might think this is a no-brainer, for from that.

    With all the regulation in place and laws that protect the birth mother more then the child and the adopters, it has become a nightmare to adopt a child in the USA.
    Te results are long waiting lists and an oversupply(bad choice of words) of adoptable children in foster families.

    To avoid the red tape and the legal implications in the USA they ended up adopting a child from Korea.

    I guess my point is. Why we should teach contraception and abstinence in schools, maybe we should promote adoption instead of abortion, and leave abortion as the very last resort.

    Of course we should create the legal structure to protect the children and the adopters.
    It is not an easy decision to give up ones own child, but leaving the option of reclaiming the child years later doesn’t sound very good either.

    October 9, 2008
  80. A lot of kids and parents who were astranged for one reason or another seem to want to find each other as the child becomes an adult. There are just too many important reasons to know where you came from, DNA wise. We are a lost species at any rate, not knowing who you parents are just makes it all too mysterious, imvho.

    But, Peter, you said ‘claim’ and uh, I have a story to tell you. I used to make up questions when I was a young woman and I would ask 100 people for answers. My own little surveys. One time I asked people in a small town where they have travelled to, and another time I asked men if they could have children from their own bodies, would they. I don’t know if that last sentence requires a question mark or not, maybe Barry can tell us.
    Anyway, all but 1 out of the 100 men surveyed said that he would have a baby if he could. Well, then I HAD to ask him why, and he said because the courts wouldn’t be as apt to take the child away…Seems he was a German man, who had been through a custody battle and lost. The other 99 men where Americans, as far as I can tell, and expressed a lot of notions about not being a woman, not wanting to ever give birth, etc. That was in the 70s. I wonder if I asked that question today, what men would say. How far have we come? Any takers? Men, would you have a baby come through your body if you were capable of carrying a child to birth?

    October 9, 2008
  81. David Ludescher said:

    Rob: You didn’t comment on the article you cited. I would be interested to hear your thoughts because of your ability to engage in a dispassionate discussion on a passionate topic.

    Two things about the article struck me as odd:

    Firstly, the author seems to completely dismiss abstinence teaching as an integral part of telling kids how to avoid getting pregnant. It can’t be disputed that abstinence is the only sure way not to get pregnant. Shouldn’t we educate our children about how the sexual urge is so strong that it will often overwhelm their rationality? Shouldn’t we teach them that abstinence-until-marriage is the only sure check on their urges?

    Secondly, the author completely dismiss the idea of adoption that Peter brought up earlier. It seems to me that the proponents of abstinence-less teaching are warning of the dangers of motherhood at an early age as if getting pregnant locks mothers into a lifelong struggle against poverty. It strikes me that the champions of “choice” become the harshest critics of “choice” when the mother chooses to raise the child. To be complete, shouldn’t our “sex education” include information on adoption, and not just the horrors of young parenthood?

    Do you think that these criticisms are warranted?

    October 11, 2008
  82. Rob Hardy said:

    For me, David, the key phrase in the piece was when the author spoke of creating “an environment in which young people receive support from parents and other adults as they learn about relationships and wise sexual choices.” This doesn’t preclude (and, indeed, should include) a discussion of abstinence and adoption as possible choices.

    October 11, 2008

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