Better Safe Than Sorry

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My favorite persuasive essay focused on birth control for teens. I successfully converted some opposers with this.

Submitted: December 27, 2011

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Submitted: December 27, 2011

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You’re folding laundry when your 15 year old daughter comes in and casually sits on the bed. You can tell she wants something, but she’d rather humor you by initiating small talk. After a brief moment of silence, she carefully mentions that she’s learning quite a bit in Health class this semester. A red flag immediately distorts your vision as you re-fold a towel again. Inside, you feel it coming and enjoy the last few seconds you have before “the talk” inevitably begins. Outside, you continue to present yourself as a calm, collected mother who is ready to discuss and answer many questions to the best of your knowledge. You take the bait and ask what the course is currently focusing on. “Sex ed.”, she replies, not knowing that was the answer you both expected and feared. You swallow your emotions and manage to ask, “How’s that going?” A look of guilt comes over the face of your 15 year old angel. She’s reached the point of no return and before the moment passes, she spits it out. “Would you consider putting me on birth control?”

How should one respond to that? Negatively because it’s instantly assumed she wants to become or already is sexually active; or positively because she mustered up the courage to initiate the topic and chose to include a parent in her personal decisions? If you recall your childhood, it is likely that you would agree in saying there were many things you did that your parents either never knew about, or could not have prevented you from doing. If daughters aren’t placed on birth control, it more than likely will not affect their choice to become sexually active. Birth control should be administered by parents when their daughter turns 15 years old to protect from unintentional pregnancy, to protect the well-being of unborn children, enhance parental involvement and depress media influences, learn and maintain a healthy responsible lifestyle, as well as improve effectiveness of the nation’s funding, statistics, and abortion rates.

Young girls do not understand how important it is to protect against pregnancy once they choose to become sexually active, the depth of an unplanned teenage pregnancy, nor the sacrifices that come with it. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “A sexually active teen who does not use a contraceptive has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year…82% of teen pregnancies are unplanned; they account for about one-fifth of all unintended pregnancies annually.” (“Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health”) Speaking with your daughter regarding yearly costs for a child including clothes, diapers, toys, formula, necessary household items (i.e. crib, highchair, car seat, etc.) may help her fathom the outrageous expense of raising a child properly and help her realize that those ten minutes or so can cost more than she had ever imagined- and the costs will continue for the rest of her life. After a parent has begun this discussion with their daughter, it’s not over-exaggerating to have the daughter accompany the parent to a local store and casually browse through the infant section. A substantial amount of people are visual learners and physically showing her what all is needed and how expensive things like cribs, car seats, highchairs, etc. are can help her visualize the true impact a child will have on a teenage mother. Bearing children is a costly decision because not only do they require these items, but they physical depend on them throughout their life. It’s also imperative to elaborate on revolving costs for these items, specifically diapers. Children do not stay in the same car seat forever, nor can they only survive only on breast milk. Next, browse the luxury items, items to keep children entertained. Explain to her that a simple swing or exersaucer can make an impressive difference on whether or not things like household chores, homework and cooking meals can be accomplished. Then show her the cost. Ask her, “Without a job, do you think it’s easy to acquire all of these things needed to raise a child?” The obvious response is going to be “No.” This is where the conversation should be directed to specific instances in the teenager’s life.

“Let’s say you decide to become sexually active, you don’t use contraceptives and get pregnant within a year. Now you’re in tenth grade lugging around not only books from class to class, but a very physically straining rotund belly. After school, instead of coming home and doing homework or channel surfing, you’re rushing to get to work on time. You’re only sixteen, so what kind of job do you think you’ll be qualified for?” (Not a very lucrative one). “Now think of your Saturday morning slumber and kiss it goodbye. Newborns not only eat, but they eat on average about every 2-3 hours.” (This usually instills the deer-in-headlights look, as they realize they will have to sacrifice an accustomed ritual for a mandatory need of others). “If you have your sights set on college, which you should, where are you hoping to attend?” Most will reply with an answer that involves relocating. “So since you have a child, you won’t be able to live in a dorm or in off-campus housing; you’ll need your own apartment - which entails an enormous amount of money in itself. You’ll need furniture, toilet paper, dishes… Oh and you’ll be responsible for rent, electricity, your phone, groceries - all while ensuring support for your child first.” Anxiety will begin to flush her body as she rationalizes the truth of your words. You continue, “When you turn 21, are you guaranteed the night of partying that you’ve been eagerly anticipating all these years? Nope. Granted you may have a sitter arranged, but remember, drinks are expensive and so is the hourly rate for a babysitter, especially if you get trashed and don’t pick her up until morning-after you’ve had enough sleep to rid the alcohol content from your body.” You can then ask her, “What about the father of the baby? You won’t be married, so you’ll have full custody. Do you think he’ll give up his whole life like you’ll have to?”

One can hope so, but in reality, in this instance, hopes are merely thin air. Teenage fathers are not physically affected by the pregnancy, thus supporting the metaphor ‘out of sight, out of mind’. They may not be responsible enough to understand the sacrifices to be made when you bring a child into this world, causing the mother to feel the full weight of the burden alone. As a parent, you’ve just accomplished the treacherous task of instilling fear, yet understanding in your pride and joy. Now pat yourself on the back for taking a realistic approach to getting through to your teen in a way she can understand. Most teenagers do not and will not experience this form of visual understanding, thus impairing critical thinking strategies when faced with the decision to become sexually active. Many teenage pregnancies will also deprive important relationships in a teen’s life, especially a daughter’s relationship with her parents; birth control can help salvage this bond before pressure to have sex even begins.

Birth control is wise to administer to girls at age 15 to help better protect not only themselves, but the lives of others. Teenagers do not understand the imperative need for both a mother and father figure in a child’s life. Young adult fathers are likely to not be essentially prepared to raise a child so therefore, they choose not to. In the movie Freakonomics, it is implied that statistically, children born to teenage mothers, who are likely high school drop-outs, are more likely to live a majority of their life below the poverty level due to inadequate parenting or problems with family life which leads to poor grades and unlikeliness of college pursuits, which is linked to increasing crime rates in our nation. The film states, “Legalized abortion is responsible for a big chunk of lowering crime.” Now substitute the words ‘legalized abortion’ for ‘birth control pills’. Both will have the same effect, but only one will satisfy crime rates and those who oppose abortion while improving our nation’s funding. The film reminds us of the popular 1973 case, Roe vs. Wade, where abortion became legal, which Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner linked to decreased crime rates in the 1990s. This was due to less unwanted births who, statistically, were a majority of criminals. The film concludes the subject with the following statement, “Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice or somewhere in between, there is a meaningful, impeachable connection between giving women the right to choose and a reduction in crime.” (“Freakonomics”) This can also be interpreted as with effective contraceptives at the acceptable age of 15, crime rates will decrease substantially in the coming years thus promoting a safer place to live.

Many parents want to avoid the necessary and inevitable “talk” at all costs and when they do, they do not fully elaborate on contraception, STDs, and pregnancy to their daughters. So many girls are relying on friends and the media to create their realistic ideas about premarital sex because they have not developed the needed communication window with their parents, which causes unsafe tendencies that have proven to result in teenage pregnancy. For example, in the latest films and television sitcom series, many indirect and direct sexual advances are being made. Young girls who eagerly anticipate a new episode of their favorite show only see what is put before them; they do not watch an almost too explicit for television sex scene and think of the consequences of the characters decisions in depth. This is quite common in the familiar teen hit sitcom Gossip Girl where sex is implied between several characters. It does not however focus on the detrimental aspects of underage sex such as the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, nor reference that a character is on birth control. One character takes a pregnancy test which reveals that she is not pregnant and tremendous concern suddenly evaporates. The show does not address what consequences she would face had the result been positive. (“Gossip Girl”) This can mislead the teenage viewers into believing that the result of taking an at home pregnancy test is not a matter of great importance, just a part of being a teenager. The television screen is face value; what you see is what you get. Due to media influences not necessarily portraying the full perspectives of underage sex, many girls do not rationalize the consequences that can come from it. This is why it is important for parents to also address the importance of life morals and values in their family. Inform and remind your child that the birth control pill does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, explain the consequences of premarital and underage sex, and stress that abstinence is always, by far, the safest choice. Conversations regarding these important issues should be addressed throughout the teenage years to impact young girls’ choices about sex in the future. Parents influence children more than one would think; speaking openly with accurate information regarding sexual health will benefit your daughter in making educated decisions when the time does come. It’s also important to remember that it takes teens a lot of courage to initiate topics revolving around or about sex. In a survey conducted by Seventeen magazine and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, it was revealed that 83% of teens were afraid to talk to parents about sex because they feared their parents’ reaction and 80% said they feared their parents would assume they are already sexually active or are planning to be. (“Are Parents and Teens Talking about Sex?”) Another aspect to consider is that times have changed regarding contraceptives. In the past, males were predominately the ones to exercise the use of protection in the form of condoms. In society now, it is more common for the females to be responsible for the protection against pregnancy.  

In addition, teenage girls can reap the health benefits of birth control. By learning the ‘in and out’s’ of birth control, they become aware of the advantages it has. According to WebMD.com, research shows birth control is effective in reducing cancer risks of female reproductive organs and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). (“The New No-Period, No PMS Birth Control Pills”) The Pill can also help ease the severity of cramps and acne as well as protect against infections in the ovaries, tubes and uterus, ectopic pregnancy, endometrial and ovarian cancers, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, and heavy and/or irregular periods, to name a few. (“Birth Control Pills”) It is common for doctors to prescribe birth control to young teenage girls, with parental consent, to maintain a manageable menstrual period. Some people question the effectiveness of the birth control pill with prolonged use. According to Dr. Joan Bengtson of Harvard Health, “If used properly, the pill maintains its high level of protection and does not become less effective over time.” (“Birth Control Effectiveness Over Time”) Another concern many people have is the rumor that birth control pills cause weight gain. Dr. Melisa Holmes and Dr. Trish Hutchison address this concern, as well as the concern for conception later, after prolonged use of birth control pills in your teens. In their book, “Girlology: Hang-Ups, Hook-Ups, and Holding Out”, the following is stated:

Birth control pills got a reputation for causing weight gain back in the days when they had higher doses of hormones. The newer low-dose pills that are usually prescribed for teens today do not cause weight gain… Teenagers are still developing a more adult body, which means there’s a normal amount of weight gain going on anyway. The other issue is that many teens start eating more fast food when they can drive; they don’t have mandatory PE as often; and they get less exercise than when they were younger… Another concern is hormones affecting fertility. After you stop the pill, your natural hormones will return to normal quickly… Hormones in the pill won’t interfere with your body’s natural hormones and ability to get pregnant after you stop taking it. (194-195)

Allowing your daughter to be placed on birth control for the health benefits will assist in ensuring she is being responsible with her health and teach her the importance of caring and respecting her body. Some parents firmly believe that placing a young teenager on birth control pills will promote sexual promiscuity or seem as if they are enabling their child to have sex. This is where critical thinking comes in to play. Dr. Konstance McCaffree reminds us that “Critical thinking is a life skill that all adults and children need to master in order to make decisions in the many challenges faced throughout life. There is no such thing as a “mixed message” if, as a child grows, she/he is taught to consider alternatives, to understand that there are different views/values, and to look at the consequences of various decisions.” One advantage often not recognized is that enabling critical thinking by explaining several options enables and can prepare the ability to think critically when placed in situations where it is needed. (“Can We Talk about Abstinence and Contraception OR Is It a Mixed Message?”) On an episode of his show, Dr. Phil addresses this concern by stating, “I just think that’s a risk you can’t take. I don’t like the message it sends, but I think the consequences of being wrong are too great to ignore.” (“Teens and Birth Control: What Should You Do?”) Whether or not teens are provided with birth control is not the deciding factor in whether or not they become sexually active. They will likely seek out alternatives or simply go without.

Parents as well as television, do not properly admonish children of the dangers and consequences of underage and premarital sex and it’s proven nationwide. In 2009, Rob Stein and Donna St. George of The Washington Post wrote “Nationally, the birthrate among 15-to-19-year-olds rose 1.4 percent from 2006 to 2007, continuing a climb that began a year earlier. The rate jumped 3.4 percent from 2005 to 2006, reversing what had been a 14-year decline.” (“Teenage Birthrate Increases for Second Consecutive Year”) This implies that our “sex talks” and choice of instilling abstinence-only education needs to become more effective with the rise in teenage pregnancy. Because teenage pregnancies have been gradually rising, President Barack Obama proposed a new budget in 2009 that shifted funding for sex education focused on abstinence to funding for sex education based around preventing teen pregnancies. White House domestic policy coordinator, Melody Barnes spoke to USA Today stating that Obama “is open to innovation, and that could include abstinence-only [education] if there is some indication it would work”. She also states that “the budget leaves open a possibility that an abstinence-only program could be funded, if there is evidence of its effectiveness. (“Obama Budget Cuts Funds for Abstinence-Only Sex Education”) Providing daughters with birth control will drastically impact the nation’s abortion rate in a positive way- by helping lower it. Teens that engage in intercourse that practice safe sex are far less likely to need or use abortion services than those who do not practice safe sex when engaging in intercourse. Guttmacher reports that in 2006, 27% of pregnancies from women age 15-19 resulted in abortion, with the approximate number at 200,420. (“Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health”) Providing birth control will also decrease spending on costly procedures, such as abortions, and increase spending on effective preventative measures, such as birth control, which can result in today’s youth understanding that they as an individual, are capable and responsible for making a big impact on society and the nation as a whole for years to come. Teens that birth children at an early age will likely fall into a teenage statistic which states that teenage mothers are less likely to graduate high school, let alone pursue a college degree. Fathers of the child could also easily fall into a teenage statistic that states that many teen fathers are not included or actively participating in their child’s life. No parent wants that for their child and some don’t believe that abortion should even be considered an option. Everyone wants their children to live happy, successful lives full of opportunities and multiple possibilities of where to go in life. The best way to acknowledge this problem is to enhance parental involvement and offer birth control. Begin open communication which will build a more trusting relationship, and discussing your concern for her health, future and well-being while offering substantial protection.

There are many parents who firmly oppose offering birth control to teens. Some believe that offering teen birth control is similar to that of loading a gun and handing it to them, which enables them to kill their own opportunities by defending sexual distraction because of administration of birth control when really it’s not. In turn, it’s actually protecting them before their opportunities are too far deep in placenta had they become sexually distracted and/or active and you as a parent have not fulfilled your duties in properly educating them or providing birth control. As you grow older the phrase ‘If only I had known then what I know now’ makes more sense than it ever has before. Try sympathizing with teens today by recognizing all the pressures they encounter. Wisdom from a trusting, non-judgmental parent paired with effective precautions, such as birth control, is exactly the kind of intervention teens today need – and it’s blatantly obvious.

Teenagers are becoming more promiscuous by the day it seems. It’s getting to the point where teenage pregnancies are developing a trend and becoming more common in the United States. Parents always want to protect their child, shield them from harm and give them a better life than they had. So why not protect them from the increasing rate of unplanned pregnancies in teens? Simple communication between mother and daughter about sex and access to necessary precautions can make a substantial difference in the number of teenage pregnancies and abortions every year. By choosing to place your daughter on birth control at 15, you are ensuring that your daughter takes care of her body and becomes responsible by being informed of all advantages and disadvantages of it. Voicing your concern and helping protect your daughter will result in a better mother-daughter relationship and safer sex practices should she become sexually active and you can rest assured in knowing that she is well prepared to make informed decisions regarding her sex life.


© Copyright 2017 Ronda McKenzie. All rights reserved.

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