June 25th, 2009
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Categories: In the Media

A program is raising some eyebrows and questions with how they are “preventing” teen girls from having unplanned pregnancies. In short, they get paid to not get pregnant. No, really. The program is a slightly more complex than that, though not much.

Girls in the program attend 90-minute meetings every week at which they receive lessons in abstinence and the use of contraceptives — and they receive $7 every week they do not get pregnant. The money is deposited into a fund that’s collectible when they enroll in college.

Like some others, I have some questions and reservations.

Question #1: Why do programs address things like contraceptives but not about the cycle signs that every woman experiences. Why don’t they talk about things like your fertile mucous? Why don’t they tell girls that various discharges are normal so they’re not scared to ask if something changes? Why don’t they mention things like Basal Body Temperature? Why aren’t we educating women about their own bodies?

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Question #2: Why aren’t boys offered such a thing? Someone mentioned that is because you can’t “prove” that a boy didn’t father a baby. Wrong answer. It’s called DNA. If we’re counseling young mothers to take responsibility for their actions and, as such, calling the baby’s father to take responsibility, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Reservation #1: Will this lead to abortions had by young girls in secret? While North Carolina mandates parental consent for abortion, will their parents help them get one, quietly and without counseling, so that these girls can keep receiving money for college? I mean, money is a big lure, especially in this economy. Would parents who would otherwise help their daughter get on her feet and raise a child push that daughter to have an abortion simply to keep the funding?

Reservation #2: If we’re just telling them about abstinence and birth control, are we not discussing the other repercussions of their decisions regarding sex? I’m not just talking about STD’s. I’m talking about the emotional fall out from a decision to have sex too early. I’m talking about getting pregnant and having to choose between an abortion, parenting and adoption. I’m talking about the grief that comes with abortion or adoption. I’m talking about all of that other stuff. Is this really a program that could benefit these girls in more ways than just how to take the pill or when to say no? There’s so much more to sex.

Interestingly, I never would have been eligible for this program.

Enrollment in the program — which meets separately twice a week for two groups, ages 12-14 and 15-18 — is at capacity with 24 young women. To participate, girls must have never been pregnant, be enrolled in school, have a desire to attend college and have had a sister who gave birth before age 18.

Because I’m the oldest child and do not have any sisters, this program would have shunned me. But, there I was, at twenty-two, pregnant, still without knowledge of how my cycle worked and unsure of where to go from there. Excluding only children or children without sisters doesn’t seem to be of benefit to a large number of teen girls.

I think the program will fold eventually. I don’t think it offers our teens enough information nor do I think they’re going about it in a proper manner. Paying someone to not do something doesn’t seem to be reinforcing the right themes.

Thoughts that don’t involve name-calling?

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