by Susan E. Wills
May 24, 2002
There was a time when teenagers were constantly getting advice from grown-ups. Parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, coaches, the boss on the after-school job, all felt responsible for the upbringing of kids. The values of hard work, self-control and integrity were pearls of wisdom handed out as freely as Halloween candy.
Today, there seem to be fewer adults offering kids moral direction. Even many parents and medical personnel adopt a laissez faire approach. But when the failure to advise has lifelong, even fatal, consequences, grown-ups have to step forward.
A cover story in U.S. News & World Report (May 27) and one in The Times of London (Jan. 29, 2002) illustrate this point well. Here medical personnel who should know better only perpetuate two great myths: 1) kids will have sex anyway, so encouraging abstinence won't work; and 2) sex ed, condoms and "the Pill" will keep them healthy and safe.
The multi-billion dollar industries that manufacture and distribute condoms, contraceptives and drugs to treat sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), and the lucrative abortion industry, have a huge financial stake in perpetuating these myths. Unfortunately, parents and kids believe them, at least until reality intrudes with a vengeance.
Doctors and nurses treating STDs refuse to "moralize" and say they must remain "nonjudgmental." Nonjudgmental when girls find out their suspected "strep throat" is actually gonorrhea? When girls not old enough to drive are diagnosed with chlamydia, incurable herpes, incurable genital warts or abnormal (precancerous) Pap smears from human papilloma virus (HPV)?
Kids are not told that condoms can't protect against herpes or HPV because they are "regional infections" that can be passed by skin-to-skin contact. Nor are they told even when used "correctly" every time, condoms give only limited protection against other STDs. This silence fuels an epidemic–over 45 million Americans now infected with STDs, and 15 million new cases annually.
Parents think they're protecting their daughters by letting them take "the Pill." But in typical teen use, oral contraceptives fail up to 15% of the time. Worse, medical literature describes serious, and even potentially fatal side effects of pill use: increased risks for cardiovascular problems; (sometimes fatal) blood clots; migraines; and breast, cervical and liver cancer. Pills containing estrogen also cause the uterus to age twice as fast. So a 32-year-old woman who has used contraceptives since age 16 may be out of luck when she tries to start a family; she has the uterus of a 48-year-old.
Sex ed, condoms and pills have failed our kids. Fortunately, chastity works. The "Best Friends" chastity program dropped pregnancy rates in a D.C. school from 20% to 1.1% in one year. The Teen Aid abstinence program cut pregnancies in one school district from 150 a year to 20. Instead of addressing the AIDS epidemic with the "safe sex"/condoms policy of neighboring countries, Uganda has stressed abstinence before marriage and marital fidelity – and has spectacularly reversed the spread of AIDS. (The New Republic, May 27, 2002)
Grown-ups, don't be afraid to speak out.
Susan Wills is associate director for education, USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.