I am a physician and a few years ago I started teaching sex-ed to elementary and middle school students. I’ve discovered that a terrible thing happens to girls during middle school—they stop believing they have any choice when it comes to sex and dating.
“Girls,” I say, “now that I’ve explained how difficult- even impossible - it is to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, you can see that the only real safety lies in waiting for marriage to become sexually active.”
The girls look at each other like I’m from Mars.
Usually, one brave girl responds, “Dr. Christie, I don’t know how it was before you were married, but nowadays, no boy will date a girl more than a couple of times if she doesn’t sleep with him. If we want to date, we have no choice.”
These are the words that send me home depressed. As a woman and the mother of girls, I am passionate about seeing them reach their full, beautiful potential. I’d like to see every one of them strong, honorable, and independent— and making crucial decisions based on their informed consciences and their noble hearts.
The feminists who worked so hard for equality succeeded in many ways. Barriers to education and professions have melted and women have real options.
I myself am proof of that.
Yet, for the all the strident talk of “choice,” young women today seem to have less power over their bodies and sexuality than our grandmothers did.
Not all girls feel powerless, thankfully. This month hundreds of thousands of people will march in D.C. at the annual March for Life. A large portion of the fervent and cheerful group will be young women—teenagers and women in their early 20’s. By marching they are refusing the false banner of choice that modern culture has been waving at them since they were born.
They want real freedom—the freedom to say no and to wait for love and the emotional and physical safety of a lasting commitment.
What these young women know is that to be pro-life is to be pro-woman.
They are the new feminists, rebuffing the lies and soul-crushing conformity of modern culture, which insists that extramarital sex is nothing but a pleasurable pastime with no physical, emotional, or spiritual downsides.
In the make-believe world the culture presents to them, sex is entirely disconnected from its natural result: the conception of children.
In that world, STD’s are easily prevented and contraception always works, even in the hands of impulsive teens. When it doesn’t, an abortion is a painless procedure of no ethical or emotional consequence— and the only real choice.
The women at the demonstration know this is all wrong. They’ve seen the ugly downsides or experienced them. The STD transmission rate for diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia continues to rise, with 10 million new infections every year in young people. About 40% of all young women are infected with HPV, a virus which causes cervical cancer.
Each year almost 50,000 people are diagnosed with HIV in our country, and 26% of them are under 25. It is no mystery to these young women that sex as a pastime is bad for your health, even with condoms available at every school and neighborhood clinic.
Policies advertised as advancing “women’s freedom” like universal contraception and cheap abortions have not reduced unintended pregnancies, which hold steady at an astronomic 7% for women under 24. In fact, young people feel falsely safer and engage in more premarital sex, with the usual bad outcomes.
Even worse, the false sense of security has created the “dating market” the 14 year old girls tell me about, where sex is the price of any relationship. In this scenario, preventing a pregnancy is the girl’s responsibility and abortion the only option if she conceives. Girls are anything but in control.
The young women who march in Washington know that missing from the pro-choice movement’s moral calculus is the simple but earthshaking fact that sex cannot be severed from procreation. And that what is being created are human beings, who are valuable and dignified, no matter how small and defenseless.
The young demonstrators are the “ultrasound generation.” They have seen the perfectly obvious humanity of the fetus--the 3D ultrasound videos of a baby girl yawning, safe inside her mother. They recognize that half of the hundreds of thousands of babies that are aborted each year are girls, and they stand with them in female solidarity.
I need to go to the March each year. I need to see the tens of thousands of joyful girls who are thrilled with their power and freedom.
It gives me the hope and certainty I need when I teach their younger sisters that they can also “choose.” With science, biology, and ethics to sustain them, they can refuse to participate in a dating culture where all the power and advantages are on the male side.
They can embrace their femininity and delight in the promise of maternity. They can opt for the only really safe sex: with a man who is exclusively and permanently committed to them and the children they will rejoice in together.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a Policy Advisor for The Catholic Association. She writes and speaks in both Spanish and English about Catholicism, religious freedom, and the intersection of faith and science. Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, coming to the United States at the age of eleven. She is a graduate of Columbia University and the University of Miami School of Medicine.