Back in 2006, I had a long email conversation with a friend from high school on the topic of teen pregnancy.
His views on the topic were simplistic, and not aligned with reality. They were aligned with his religious beliefs.
“Abstinence works every time it is used” is what he told me.
And I agree – when abstinence is used to prevent pregnancy, it works.
But the reality is that our human decisions are greatly influenced by emotions and hormones. And sometimes they are influenced by alcohol or drugs.
Since we had that conversation there have been multiple studies in Neuroscience about the underdeveloped decision-making abilities of the adolescent brain. The decision-making centers of our brains continue to develop well into our early 20’s.
While I believe that we should be teaching young people how to make good decisions and that poor decisions have consequences, I also think that we must pay attention to reality and understand that underdeveloped brains can be swamped by emotions and hormones – leading to poor choices.
They need our guidance. And they need our assistance.
Study after study has shown that abstinence-only birth control education DOES NOT WORK. Excuse the pun, but at this point it should be a “no-brainer” decision for adults.
What has been shown to work is “Abstinence Plus” education. In other words, teach young people that they should be abstinent. But also teach them how to acquire and use methods of birth control.
And to do this, we must make birth control easily available to our young people. It must be within reach, it must be cheap or free, it must be available without shame.
The 1972 Supreme Court case “Eisenstadt v. Baird”, made contraceptives legal for most Americans. Before 1972 it was illegal for any unmarried person to use any method of contraception. In the 1977 case “Carey v. Population Services International” the Supreme Court ruled that contraceptives were legal for unmarried minors to purchase and use.
And yet even now, even in California, I find that some stores place contraceptives behind the counter. Prescription contraceptives (like the Pill) usually require parental consent depending on State law. Easily available contraception has been a “boogie-man” of religious conservatives since the “free love” movement of the 1960’s.
Any sort of education, contraceptive, or medication that is used to reduce the risk of disease or pregnancy for couples who have sex is a target for the religious right.
And again, this conflicts with reality. Forcing teenagers to ask for parental permission to acquire contraceptives does nothing to reduce sexual promiscuity in teens. States that teach abstinence only while restricting contraceptives are the same states with high rates of teen pregnancy.
Today, the Trump “Care” bill went up for its first vote in the House. But it got push-back from religious conservative House Representatives who do not believe the new bill goes far enough to remove access to contraceptives.
Under the ACA, insurers cover prescription contraceptives with no copay. Trump “Care” preserves this mandate.
There is a group of far-right religious conservative Representatives in the House that oxymoronically call themselves the “Freedom Caucus”. This Freedom Caucus opposes Trump’s health care bill because it allows the coverage of contraceptives.
As of this writing, the threats of the Freedom Caucus have resulted in a canceled vote on Trump’s healthcare bill.
Even though the Republicans are a super-majority in the House and even though they don’t need ANY Democrat votes to pass a bill through the House, the GOP can’t get Trump’s health care bill passed because it doesn’t hurt Americans enough.
Easily available contraceptives were just more than they could stand.
Remember this anytime someone talks about “compassionate” religious conservatives.
On another note, if the bill is reshaped to cater to the odious demands of the Freedom Caucus, it will probably turn away more moderate members of the GOP. Right now Trump has decided to take things into his own hands and use his “art of the deal” to make this work.