Kathleen Harris has been handing out condoms to teenage trick or treaters for 24 years. She began during the apex of the AIDS epidemic and believes she is performing a community service by promoting health education and teen pregnancy prevention. She gives condoms only to those 16 and older, asking the teens to verify their ages. But the father of a 14-year-old girl who received a condom wasn’t impressed by Harris’s personal outreach program. He claims Harris’s actions are a violation of his right to raise his daughter as he sees fit.
The incident isn’t causing widespread outrage in the community, but it illustrates the gap between couples like Kathleen Harris and her husband, Daniel, a doctor who supports his wife’s activism, and the girl’s father, Daniel Cote, a chiropractor who objects to the idea that providing condoms is a way to prevent teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Harris delivers a public service message with each condom. She reminds teens that having condoms does not mean they are having sex, nor that they should. It’s simply a reminder that if they do, to be safe, and she asks them to share the condoms with anyone they know who is having sex but isn’t doing so safely.
After all, Harris said, “Kids are going to do these things anyway, so we want them to have to at least think about it ahead of time.”
Condoms Promote Teen Sex
Daniel Cote doesn’t agree. He believes handing out condoms to teens promotes sex amongst teens, and though he respects the right of the Harris’s to their views, he doesn’t want those views imposed on his child.
The Cote’s discovered the condom as they went through their daughter’s Halloween haul and eventually traced them back to the Harris’s. According to the Cote’s, they were not the only parents who were upset.
What the Experts Say
Experts tend to agree with Daniel Cote that it is parents who should be talking to teens about sex because they are the best judges of their children’s readiness on the topic. Receiving condoms and lectures from strangers on Halloween puts teens in an uncomfortable position.
What Do You Think?
American teen pregnancy and STD rates are among the highest in the industrialized world, so even if the Cote’s are conscientious parents, it appears that not all are paying much attention. What do you think? Should neighbors be handing out condoms to your teens or is that your job? Share your stories.
photo credit: Beware of Condoms by 20after4