Carrie Piatt's letter of May 13, "Teen pregnancy sessions important," advocating not just teen education in "safe sex" and contraceptive use but also laws mandating contraceptive use by teenage girls certainly demands a response.
Perhaps the writer should familiarize herself with the ugly experiment with compulsory sterilization in India in 1975 and the horrors of Communist China's current one-child policy, which features not only mandated contraception and sterilization but also forced abortion. She should also learn about the unsavory American experience, which began with Progressive-era eugenicists and featured forced sterilization of the mentally ill and feeble-minded and was even used for racial purposes in the old South. Would she view the Chinese government officials who are overseeing the one-child policy as heroes because they are checking "unwanted" births, instead of people like dissident Chen Guangcheng who was recently in the news for courageously opposing that policy? Perhaps she should also familiarize herself with American constitutional law (see the U.S. Supreme Court's 1942 Skinner v Oklahoma decision), which forbids the forced contraception that she seeks as against the "liberty interest" of the individual. It also collides with well-established international human rights norms. In short, such governmental actions are an outrage to the dignity of the human person.
The criticism of the promotion of abstinence is grossly misdirected. The problem has not been too much focus on abstinence, but much too little both in educational institutions and the broader culture.
For 40 years, schools across the country have been inundated with sex education programs operating from her assumption that somehow teens - even pre-teens - cannot practice abstinence, and some feature school-based clinics that dispense the contraceptives she thinks are so reliable. Maybe she even took part in such programs herself. Otherwise, teens can readily get various contraceptives without parental consent.
Nevertheless, there has been an explosion in teen pregnancy. Maybe she should note the comments as early as 30 years ago by Dr. Minchuch Chang, one of the developers of the oral contraceptive, who said that the pill had made young people more sexually permissive. She seemed to lament the increased teenage abortion rate. Yet she could readily find the information that shows such increase has gone along with the easier access of teens to contraceptives - just as happened with adult women. Abortion came to be seen as a back-up form of contraception. She should also learn about how many types of birth control pills and the IUD actually function as forms of early abortion. She might also look into the increasing information about the apparent health consequences on contraceptive use, such as how breast cancer has increased 400 percent among pre-menopausal women since 1975 - a period in which contraceptive use skyrocketed. Along with this, she might give some thought to whether the use of contraceptives open the door to a young woman becoming more readily used sexually. The result is that young women are increasingly objectified and their dignity debased.
As far as Miss Piatt's claim that "teens are not going to stop having sex," maybe she ought to read about earlier American history.
The famous 19th-century writer Alexis de Tocqueville commented about the strong sexual virtue found here - along with the norm of marital fidelity, solid family life and the evident respect in which women were held. The claim that teens and young adults simply cannot practice abstinence is belied by the upright lives and conduct of the students I face in class each day. There is no question that a person can - and must - practice self-control in other aspects of life. How can anyone say that sex is different?
Abstinence is not only possible, it is necessary. It is the only true solution to the problem of teen pregnancy. The most reliable means to sustain it before marriage is a thorough personal commitment to sound, sensible, "traditional" sexual morality and an embracing of traditional religion. To say that teens cannot control themselves is both an excuse for poor decision-making and denigrates their true capabilities. To call for government to mandate teen contraceptive use is a ghastly solution to the problem of teen pregnancy. It also ignores the real cause of the problem: the lack of proper moral and spiritual formation of many young people today.
(Krason is a professor of political science and legal studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.)