Sunday, February 13, 2005

Pro-Responsibility: Responsible People Making Responsible Decisions

Reproductive rights guarantee us the freedom to become a parent, or not; to use contraception to prevent pregnancy & take prophylactic measures to prevent spread of communicable disease should we chose to engage in sexual activity; to make informed and thoughtful decisions about our lives; and to consent, or not, in private, in accordance with our personal beliefs without government intervention. These aren't just rights, they're responsibilities as well: the responsibility to educate yourself about how your body works, how to prevent disease and avoid unintended pregnancy; the responsibility to learn about all your options should you face the one of the consequences of sexual activity; and the potential long-term ramifications of any decision you make.

Sexual intimacy is the domain of those mature enough to be responsible and held accountable for things that may occur after the moment has passed. Learn, think & act accordingly.

Responsibility. I'm all for it.
(Pro-Responsibility, the unofficial position of CGCS)

NARAL/Pro-Choice America has pledged to support the Putting Prevention First Bill sponsored by House Minority Leader, Harry Reid. Despite the differences between those who want to outlaw abortion and those who support leaving decisions about continuing or terminating pregnancies up to a woman, there is one thing we all have in common and that's the desire to drastically reduce the number of, if not eradicate, unintended pregnancies. I've already documented my suggestions as to how this can be acheived, but I'm glad to see that Pro-Choice groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood are actively supporting the bill and are trying to find common ground with those adamantly opposed to abortion. While my hopes aren't high that the more extreme in the "Pro-Life" Movement will work together with "Pro-Choice" people as, in general, my experiences with most are that any action other than condemnation and outlawing abortion is considered as disengenous and "not enough" compromise from the left, it's certainly something we need to do with or without their assistance.

One of the most critical objectives is to reduce the number of sexually active teenagers and resultant pregnancies/STDs. A 2004 study conducted by Jacqueline E. Darroch and Susheela Singh for the Guttmacher Institute indicates that the teen pregnancy rate in the US, while among the highest in the developed world, decreased in the 90s. According to the report, more than 75% of teen pregnancies were unintended with approximately 35-38% ending in abortion. Increased abstinence may account for a reduction in the teen pregnancy rate of approximately 25% between 1988 and 1995; use of long-acting hormonal contraceptives seems to account for the reduction in pregnancy rates of sexually active teenagers. As such, it makes sense to do everything possible to provide sex education that encourages teenagers to abstain from sexual activity until adulthood in a way that won't make them just tune the message out.

I know teens don't want to hear they're not mature enough to have sex because they all think they're very mature (we did, didn't we?). We need to get the message across that there's something to be said for life experiences (outside of sex) that will enhance their understanding of the world as this will greatly affect their decisions. We need to affirm that while sex can be great, it's in their best interests to wait until they have more life experience and are able to take care of themselves before facing the potential consequences of sexual intimacy. I think a lot of the kids who are sexually active ignore the "wait" message in conjunction with abstinence only education as there's a very judgmental message that "sex outside of marriage (fornication) is immoral" and they must wait until they are married. While it is preferable that they defer sexual intimacy until they are adults in a mutually exclusive relationship; abstinence only education with concentration on marriage ignores that fact that many Americans are deferring marriage to later in life and a message with a focus on marriage is not perceived as realistic to those who are not particularly religious. It is for this reason, and the fact you don't usually limit information taught in school to that used in the near-term future, that information on use of prophylactic measures to prevent communicable diseases and unintended pregnancy. This information can be used by those who, despite encouragement otherwise, insist on engaging in sexual activity. The information can also be utilized by those who do wait until marriage to have sex that want to defer starting a family until a later date.

It's all about being responsible and making thoughtful, informed decisions.

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