Have you heard about the holiday gift some American girls could be getting? Emergency contraception!
During Thanksgiving week the American Academy of Pediatrics announced their recommendation that "morning- after" prescriptions be issued to adolescent girls in advance of need, as a matter of routine.
"There's no good reason" to disagree with the recommendation, the San Francisco Chronicle asserts. But there are actually plenty of them.
Besides being deeply insulting to the dignity of adolescents, this approach exposes the reality that when we talk about sex, we all too often put good health and sense aside. "Women's health" routinely assumes promiscuity, whatever the age, despite the physical and mental health risks involved in such a lifestyle.
"Taking Plan B (a common name for emergency contraception) on the side in the hopes that no one will find out will lead to girls suffering and struggling on their own long past the time that medical care is indicated," says Anna Halpine, founder of the World Youth Alliance and CEO of the FEMM Foundation. "Plan B needs a prescription because it includes high levels of hormone dosage that can lead to serious side effects, particularly in certain populations."
"Further, counseling regarding sexual activity needs to be provided, and should not be taken lightly," Halpine insists. "Girls are 50 percent more likely to contract infections and sexually transmitted diseases than boys because of immature and underdeveloped cervixes, and they and their parents need to have this information.
"Women and young girls often need support in order to avoid coercive, early sexual activity, and the support of parents and medical providers is critical to enabling them to make such healthy decisions," Halpine observes.
This should be common sense. This should be the fundamental rallying cry for anyone who claims to be an advocate for women and children.
Particularly perplexing, the AAP policy recommendation doesn't even address the problem it claims to solve. As Greg Pfundstein of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a conservative nonprofit, points out, the AAP itself admits, "There is no evidence, anywhere, of access to Plan B resulting in a decrease in teen pregnancy. It is important to note that this fact is not in dispute: No study claims to have shown that access to emergency contraception decreases teen pregnancy rates."
Valerie Huber, president of the National Abstinence Education Association, asks the obvious question: "Teens would benefit from physicians' counsel, which encourages them to wait for sex -- or choose abstinence again if they are currently sexually active. The authoritative counsel of a physician can be persuasive. Why not write a policy that encourages physicians to use their influence to guide teens to avoid all the risks related to sex?"
Some common ground may still be within reach. This particular recommendation, as it happens, might be a step too far for even the Obama administration. Earlier this year, when the Department of Health and Human Services overruled a Federal Drug Administration recommendation that Plan B be made available over the counter, none other than the president himself declared: "I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine ... (The government is not) confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going into a drugstore should be able, alongside bubble gum or batteries, be able to buy a medication that potentially if not used properly could end up having an adverse effect."
Could we actually take a few steps back together here, toward something healthier than a wholesale surrender of innocence, medicine, and common sense? A cultural second opinion, perhaps? It will require a little critical perseverance in the face of attractive, distracting rhetoric about health and freedom. If we're truly acting "for the children," can we afford anything less?
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