Birth Control Pills vs. Prophylactics: Pros and Condoms

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In the most recent surprising hit at the box office a wise beyond her years Juno MacGuff responded when told that her parents were probably wondering where she was with: “Nah ... I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?"

Teenage pregnancy used to be the worst nightmare a mother could imagine, but today there are so many other worries that come with the territory of teenage sexual activity — I could be up all night! As a solution, doctors began to prescribe birth control — but before believing this is the answer to all our worries for our teens let’s take a pregnant pause. This “solution” may actually lead to other problems — namely if girls are on the pill it often leads teens to believe that condoms are redundant. This likely teenage logic could end up leading our non-pregnant daughters down a different, yet darker path to destruction? The problem born from widespread birth control use is that it may promote unsafe sex leading to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Thus this has lead many parents and school districts to feel that birth control may not be the band-aid to teen pregnancy they thought it would be.

A brief history of birth control and our laws may help us understand why things are the way they are. The American legal system certainly did not welcome the concept of birth control. Anthony Comstock was the initial crusader against birth control. In the late 1860s, he convinced many people that the availability of contraceptives promoted lust, lewdness, and infidelity — and his viewpoints were the norm! The police ultimately teamed up with him to target sex trade merchants, prostitution rings, and pornography centers. In 1873 Congress then passed the Comstock Act, which made it a federal offense to distribute birth control in certain ways. These laws remained intact until Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in America. Sanger’s clinic eventually gave birth to the 1918 Crane decision, which finally allowed women to use and more easily obtain contraceptives.

The United States then went through an abundance of court cases challenging birth control rights, abortion rights, and parental consents for minors taking birth control. In Roe v. Wade, a case symbolic of a woman’s right to choose, we established the right to choose an abortion as part of a fundamental right protected by the Constitution. In nearly every state before this decision, those who performed an abortion could be found guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Next, the Family Protection Act of 1981 made it mandatory that parents be notified when an unmarried minor receives contraceptive devices or abortion related services from a federally funded organization. Since then, however, a majority of the contraceptive clinics are NOT federally funded anymore. Translation: Girls as young as 13 can now receive and use birth control methods without their parents even knowing they are sexually active. This may lead to the rise of sexual activity (especially unprotected) in teens if pregnancy is no longer a substantial risk. And with the ease at which young women can now get their hands on birth control and a rise sexual activity — sexually transmitted diseases may be spread at a more rapid rate. What does this mean? That pregnancy may not be parents’ only worry anymore! If young women are not properly informed about the fact that birth control does not protect against diseases we may be facing a new birth — that of an STD revolution!

Concerned about HIV, herpes, hepatitis — many nervous parents and overly pressured school districts are taking stands against the use of birth control pills and patches. The problem is that the majority of the new birth control methods, (the pill, the patch, the nuva-ring), while protecting against pregnancy, may actually promote unsafe sex. Many teens may question who needs a condom when you can’t get pregnant. But that’s not the only worry.

Sexually transmitted diseases are a major problem in the modern world, and young women being taught that “the pill” is the answer may lead young girls down a slippery slope. In response, many school districts across the country are now promoting condoms as the only way to prevent against pregnancy AND STDs. But this probably isn’t the answer either as condoms aren’t fool-proof.

Promotion of condoms in school districts, by having them available at the nurse’s office, or by placing them at the senior prom tables, has come under attack in a variety of ways. Many people feel that this decision negatively impacts our children because it is promoting not safe sex, but sex in general. Advocates against schools promoting condoms also feel that it infringes on parental rights and puts children at a greater risk by encouraging them to have sex at an earlier age.

Those that condemn condom distribution, however, may be missing the big picture. There is the argument that they are just educating the kids who are already engaging in sexual activity. If we can’t stop teenagers from having sex, we can help them have safer sex.

It all comes down to the age old question — which came first the condoms or the sex? We may never know! Parents — talk to your children. Educate them about the birds and bees and the responsibilities and consequences that come with them. And to those who are sexually active out there — use condoms, and be safe. And remember, if you’re too young to accept the consequences that come with sex — abstinence is the only option!


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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.