The debates concerning reactive contraception and the morning after pill have been ongoing for an entire generation, especially as teenage pregnancy rates have risen in the contemporary world. While access has always been restricted and conditional for individuals under the age of 17, bodies have recently commenced a renewed push to change this legislation, in order to ensure that the medication can sold without age restrictions.
This is the latest in a long line of attempts to make the drug available without any conditional legislation, and has support from various affiliated medical and female orientated groups. While they continue to argue that this will reduce the rate of pregnancy amongst young teenagers and negate the risk for the emotionally challenging concept of abortion, there are opposing voices that state concern for personal responsibility and sexual promiscuity.
A Simple Resolution to a Complex Issue?
While the free and unrestricted access to emergency contraception may well reduce the rates of unplanned teenage pregnancy, it also sets a dangerous precedent for encouraging sexual activity without consequence. As a problem resolution, it is rather ill considered and short sighted, for although it is designed to achieve a particular aspiration it does so without tackling the inherent causes that trigger the issue in the first instance.
The soaring levels of sexual activity and pregnancy amongst teenagers are complex issues, and prompted by a diverse range of personal and social triggers. These triggers themselves need to be assessed, understood and challenged before behavioral trends can be modified, and this is a long term process which requires diligence and patience to deliver results. By oversimplifying the resolution, governing bodies run the genuine risk of creating a generation that acts without forethought or personal responsibility with regards to family planning.
Understanding the Social Issues
Of the many reasons that are suggested for rising teenage pregnancy rates, one of the most pertinent is the correlation between the information that youngsters can access through the internet and the nature of the sex education that they receive in schools. As part of the freedom afforded by liberal and democratic society, teenagers can access largely uncensored data on sexual activity and pregnancy, which is a combination of factual information and personal opinion.
In contrast, when sexual awareness is taught by educational bodies, it is far more objective and conforms to specific legislative guidelines. While it covers the bare facts and biological practicalities, it makes no reference to the pleasure and enjoyment that can be gained through sexual acts, and subsequently becomes rather vague and evasive when compared to the information that students can gather from the pages of the World Wide Web.
Education Posing More Questions than Answers
In this instance, teenagers are presented with different strands of information that breed curiosity and questions, and sexual activity becomes a more attractive proposition. This means that more and more youngsters are becoming sexually active before they have reached the requisite level of maturity, with the consequence that they are ill equipped to deal with the social and personal responsibility that comes from indulging the practice of unsafe sex.
The issue of maturity is significant, as this is the behavioral fabric that takes the burden of responsibility and social awareness. In terms of emergency contraception, (should it be made available to youngsters of all ages) there is a genuine risk that governments will be encouraging sexual activity amongst individuals who are not ready either physically or emotionally. One of the worst connotations of this is that is creates a false impression of sex as being increasingly inconsequential and purposeless.
Adapting Teaching Methods
Given all of these factors, there are two courses of action that the government can take to protect individual and social interests. Firstly, they could agree to make emergency contraception available without age restriction, but apply conditions in the instances where the individual is under the age of 17. This may be the implementation of confidential counselling, ore even ensuring that they undertake an education course concerning safe sexual practice and sexual health.
Secondary to this, and far more preferable in terms of long term resolution, governments could seek to modify teaching methods and the curriculum concerning sexual education. This would be with the aspiration of creating material that is both factually relevant and also based in realism, offering honest and candid information on the basic pleasures of sexual activity. This would at least create a generation with more answers than questions regarding sexual knowledge, and reduce teenage pregnancy through insightful and modern teaching methods.