Teens Have Sex. They Need Access to Contraceptives

More than half of U.S. teens have had sex by the time they’re seniors in high school. That’s the reality. And as much as abstinence-only fans might want to wish away those numbers, it’s likely going to stay the reality.

The good news is sexually active teens are making good choices. Nearly 9 out of 10 used contraceptives the last time they had sex. Adults, unfortunately, aren’t making equally good decisions.

It makes sense that if teens are sexually active, the health care providers that serve them most directly should provide contraceptives. And yet only half of school-based health centers do, thanks to prohibitive school, state and organizational guidelines.

First, a little about school-based health centers. As of a 2010-2011 census, there were 1,900 school-based health centers serving around 2 million young people each year. Patients at school-based health centers are primarily middle and high school students, especially students of color and students living in low-income families. For these vulnerable students, school-based health centers offer care when an off-site clinic isn’t an option. And a school-based health center may be these teens’ only avenue for seeking contraceptives.

Teen pregnancy is at an all-time low in the United States, due in large part to contraception. If we want that trend to continue, we need to ensure that all young people have easy, affordable access to contraceptives.

So why are only half of school-based health centers allowed to dispense them?

A lot of the pushback comes from those who claim providing contraceptives undermines parental consent or increases teens’ sexual activity.

A “parent advisory” on Family Watch International warns school-based health centers are trying to “propagandize and sexualize your children and violate parental rights.” And Human Life International cautions parents that “contraceptive measures to prevent pregnancy is in clear violation of the Church’s teaching.”

In actuality, evidence shows providing contraceptives to teens does not increase sexual activity, and 60 percent of school-based health centers allow parents to restrict access to certain services.

Young people are going to have sex. If we expect them to make the best, safest decisions they can, the adults in their lives need to ensure that they have access to the right tools. That includes providing contraceptives and information about how to use them properly.

Where better to offer these resources than in the school-based health center just down the hall from the classroom?

Image credit: bowdenimages/Getty Images

44 comments

Alea C
Alea C5 hours ago

Back again for butterfly points.

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Alea C
Alea C5 hours ago

Back again for butterfly points.

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H4 days ago

thanks

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Emma L
Emma L5 days ago

thank you

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Alea C
Alea C9 days ago

Birth control and abortions should be available, and free, to all women.

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Alea C
Alea C9 days ago

I miss my daily causes newsletter. I wish Care2 would fix their site and start posting new ones.

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Lesa D
Lesa D17 days ago

thank you Alice...

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David C
David C21 days ago

easy access and honest education...prevent STDs, prevent unwanted pregnancy

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Mia P
Mia P24 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer25 days ago

Children should have education about sex.

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