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Teenage Sex and the Morning After Pill: Isn't There a Better Way?

On Sunday, New York Gov. George Pataki announced his intention to veto a bill that would make the morning after pill (MAP) available to minors without a prescription. The bill, which was passed with much division by both houses of the New York State Legislature, underscores the urgent need for the Healthy Respect abstinence education program, which goes beyond politics and gets to the heart of the teen pregnancy issue.

Though a well-intentioned effort to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions in the state, the MAP bill actually puts New York women, especially teenagers, at risk by allowing easy and essentially unmonitored access to high doses of the birth control pills. There is no age restriction in the bill, and teens of any age can receive the high-dose hormone treatment upon request, hours after engaging in sex, at any pharmacy without first seeing a doctor for evaluation and a patient-specific prescription. There are no provisions for parental or guardian consent or oversight. Young women can receive repeated doses of these hormones at different pharmacies without the guidance of a close and trusted adult.

In addition, the high-dose birth control pill can prevent pregnancy if taken a few days after sexual intercourse, or it may cause a very early abortion by making the uterus hostile to an already fertilized ovum.

Worst of all, the MAP can unwittingly encourage promiscuous sexual activity among teens by providing them with an illusory escape hatch for irresponsible sexual behavior, all the while exposing them to the dangers of multiple sexual partners and sexually transmitted disease.

We applaud Gov. Pataki's intention to veto the MAP bill. There are better ways of addressing the problem of teenage sexual activity. At Healthy Respect we have had success in dealing with young men and women in the areas of sexuality, self-respect and personal goals. Our highly trained classroom male-female teaching teams reach the hearts and minds of teens with an attractive character-based message. In the Healthy Respect model, abstinence is not simply a ‘no’ to sex, but a ‘yes’ to the many things that young people truly want: health, self-respect, academic achievement and a better chance at success in life.

Before giving young people unmonitored access to high-dose hormones, let’s explore healthier, more positive options. Healthy Respect abstinence education program is not the whole answer to a complex issue, but it is part of a solution that seeks to challenge teens to achieve and maintain an abstinent lifestyle.

We look forward to working with lawmakers and health professionals to make a better future for the next generation of New Yorkers.