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Teen Sex: Abstaining from the Issue

Sex, drugs, alcohol, and other risky behaviors are prevalent among today's teens. Avoiding or ignoring the aforementioned issues has shown to be ineffective in the past. Teenagers engage in risky behavior to fit in, rebel, or escape their issues. What is the best course of action to prevent risky behavior in teens?


A paper published by Isabel V. Sawhill and Katherine Guyo of the Brookings Institute stated that in a 2017 study of high school students in the United States, 40% of students said they have had sex at least once. This statistic is lower than the percentage of sexually active students in 1991 which was 51%.





Catholics must abstain from sex, the pleasure of the body before marriage is a sin, and there is no way around it. Despite abstinence being the teachings of God, does abstinence-only education prevent teen pregnancy? 


A statistic from a study done by Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall and David W. Hall in 2005 found that out of 48 states, the ones that emphasize abstinence-only sexual education had significantly more teen pregnancies than states with any sort of comprehensive sexual education. 


Figure 1 states that complete abstinence sexual education had an average of 78 pregnancies per 1000 teen girls aged 14-19. Conversely, states with in-depth sexual education and did not mention abstinence had an average of 58 girls per 1000 students aged 14-19 (Stranger-Hall, Hall, 2011).


The states with the lowest average of teen pregnancies were the ones that covered abstinence with comprehensive sexual education. States at level 1 of abstinence cover abstinence but also give a lot more information. 


From the statistics seen in this study, the best form of sexual education seems to be comprehensive sexual education while also pushing abstinence as the best, but not only, option.


Hackett is in a tricky place when it comes to sexual education because while Catholics are not supposed to use contraceptives, those who do have sex are going to ignore all calls to abstinence. One may ask, should Hackett students receive more comprehensive sexual education for pregnancy and STDs?


Hackett’s current teaching is abstinence-only in the Freshman Health class. 


A study presents the fact that unwanted pregnancies have decreased from 51% to 45% of all pregnancies (Sawhill, Guyot, 2019). While the percentage of unplanned pregnancies has gone down a large amount, of the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.


Unplanned pregnancies are mostly teens who cannot support a child resulting in 60% of all unplanned pregnancies being aborted (Sawhill, Guyot, 2019).


Despite Hackett teaching Abstinence only, there have been multiple cases of pregnant teenagers attending Hackett.



The official policy is not outlined in the student handbook, as it does not apply to every student. The Diocese of Kalamazoo’s official policy is as follows:


“Decisions regarding the enrollment status of students that are expecting or have children will be approached with consideration for the welfare and Christian development of the individual student and the welfare of the entire student body. 


The building administrator will seek advice from the Diocesan Superintendent and the local pastor (priest representative in unified systems) in deciding these matters. Each case will be weighed with its own merits” 


The Portage Public School policy is as follows:

“Neither marriage nor pregnancy shall be limiting factors for the education of any student in the schools of this District. The Board of Education's responsibility for the education of all school-age children includes the education of pregnant students, whether married or unmarried. Any variation from continuing regular school classes shall be based upon the assessed needs of such students. The school may request medical verification of a student's ability to continue in all classes in her program.”


Catholics are pro-life, in the past 14 years that Mrs. Ulbrich has been Hackett’s counselor she says there have been about half a dozen cases of teen pregnancy. Hackett’s counselor says she treated each case differently depending on the girl and her needs. 


Mrs. Ulbrich usually would talk to the pregnant student about support and available programs to help her financially and with being a mother, but overall the girls were treated like every other student. Some teachers may even raise money to buy resources for the mother, but never publicly.


In the past four years, there has only been one instance of a pregnant girl at Hackett. Very little public information is available about what Hackett did to support the previously mentioned student.


As Catholics, we are called to be pro-life and to support the mother during and after her pregnancy. Hackett recently had a day when family resources toured the school amongst other pro-life groups. The new administration is more supportive of women in tough situations and supportive of women during and after the birth of their child. 


Sophomore, Ethan Sehy, says “Freshman learn about sex in Health class and I can't remember the last time I heard about a Hackett pregnancy so I would say the education is good enough”


Senior,  Aspen Deforest believes that Hackett needs more sex ed. Aspen comes from a middle school that was not Catholic so she received comprehensive sexual education instruction already and she thinks it is extremely important in preventing unwanted pregnancies. 


There is talk among many teenagers that abstinence-only education is avoiding the issue and causes kids to either act against authority or make uninformed decisions resulting in unwanted pregnancies and abortions.


References

Stranger-Hall, K, & Hall, D. (2011, October 14) Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3194801/

Sawhill, I. V., & Guyot, K. (2019). Preventing unplanned pregnancy: Lessons from the states. Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Preventing-Unplanned-Pregnancy-2.pdf

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