A recent graduate of Cornell University recently wrote an article on the Jemmott study, which recently reported that they had found that an abstinence-only curriculum taught to younger teens was effective at delaying sex. We’ve heard a lot about this study, and why it shouldn’t be taken to mean that ALL abstinence-only education is effective: the program in question didn’t impose morality, didn’t follow the A-H guidelines, was used with younger teens, etc. This is another piece to consider when filtering through the results of the study.
Although dating violence is nothing new, it’s gotten a lot of attention lately. And that’s a good thing. Recent estimates from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus state that one in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. That’s a pretty scary figure – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth. And some very compelling research coming out of the University of California, Davis looks at the way that reproductive coercion is used as a form of abuse. Dr. Elizabeth Miller, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University, has found that sabotaging birth control, forcing unprotected sex, or forcing abortion is more common that we knew before and was routinely underreported. She has been advocating for better screening practices at clinics and other agencies where young women might turn for care after such events.
At the end of February 2010, a group of professionals from several agencies gathered in Washington, DC to discuss ways we can all work together to prevent teen relationship violence. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, and MTV gathered to talk about what they’re doing and what tools are available to help increase prevention efforts in this area. Below are some resources you can use.
The results of this study are really just a confirmation of what we already know: That providing services, options and information to people about contraception can reduce unintended pregnancy, and thus reduce the number of abortions. A research team in Norway looked at four cities there. In two of those cities, the researchers offered women between the ages of 20 and 24 free contraceptives for one year–in the other two cities they did not. Although free contraception didn’t necessarily increase the percentage of women who used contraception (93%), it did increase the consistency of use. Women who received free contraception of their choice (pills, injections, contraceptive patches, vaginal rings, IUDs, implants, hormone spirals and copper spirals were offered) were more likely to use their method of choice more consistently than women who had to purchase their own contraception, and also reported being happier with the method they were using when they could choose whatever they wanted without consideration of price. More consistent contraceptive use means fewer unintended pregnancies, and the two cities that were getting this service saw their abortion rate decline by 50% in the year of the study.
While it’s hard to imagine the US offering free contraception anytime in the immediate future (can you visualize the exploding heads all over Washington, D.C.?), maybe it’s time to consider this as an option. If our real goal is to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion, expanding (or creating, in some states) a free contraception program seems not only logical but imperative. Of course, this is only one study, but I feel sure that the results could easily be replicated elsewhere. Maybe conducting more studies like this, then, would be a good next step.