National pediatrics group urges birth control for teens

Health
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 9/30/14, 03:32 pm

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the nation’s most influential pediatricians group, wants teen girls to get IUDs or hormonal implants to keep them from getting pregnant.

The new AAP policy, published yesterday, describes the long-term birth control methods as effective, safe and easy to use. Most pro-life groups would say otherwise—IUDs are considered by many to be abortifacients, as they prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. 

The policy retains language which emphasizes the 100 percent efficacy of abstinence in preventing pregnancy, encouraging teen girls to wait “until they’re ready.” But the new advice undercuts the  abstinence message. 

Valerie Huber, president and CEO of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA), said the healthiest message for teens is abstinence. The new AAP policy “perpetuates the myth that somehow waiting for sex or having sex with the use of contraceptives are equally protective,” when study after study proves that’s not the case, Huber said. Physicians should be on the forefront of teen health, and policies like this prove they are abandoning that responsibility, she said. Teens need multiple voices supporting abstinence, and policies like this one weaken that goal, Huber added. 

Advocates for the new policy say teens aren’t following abstinence advice anyway, so the medical field has taken to giving detailed suggestions about birth control. 

“All methods of hormonal birth control are safer than pregnancy,” concluded Dr. Mary Ott, adolescent medicine specialist and associate pediatrics professor at Indiana University, the policy statement’s main author. 

Alternate birth control methods include hormone pills and patches. 

Huber rejects this underlying notion entirely, saying the majority of 15- to 17-year-old adolescents haven’t had sex at all. Based on that, AAP policy should focus on supporting this choice, rather than suggesting birth-control methods, Huber said. 

“You have to wonder if this policy is being written purely to encourage practices that benefit the overall health of young people, why is there nothing to reinforce the decision being made by the majority of teens?” she asked. “Why is there nothing encouraging counselors to tell teens of the risk of sexual activity?” 

The policy, an update from a 2007 version that did not give specific suggestions, encourages the use of condoms with IUDs to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. It encourages IUDs because condoms alone are considered the least effective method of birth control. Despite this, they are the most widely used, probably because methods like IUDs and hormone implants can be expensive and involve a medical procedure. 

IUDs are t-shaped instruments made of copper that are inserted into the womb to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. They typically work for between three and 10 years after insertion. Hormonal implants are plastic rods inserted beneath the skin on the upper arm, and last for around 3 years. The two are considered to be almost 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, although the don’t protect teens from disease or the emotional consequences of having sex outside marriage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is a World Journalism Institute graduate. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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