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Efforts to Cut Down on MI Teen Pregnancy, STDs

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 By Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MI, Contact
May 13, 2008

Lansing, MI – Preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the dual purposes of "Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month" in Michigan, and state lawmakers are looking at ways to help meet that goal.

Margy Long, vice president of public advocacy and communications for Planned Parenthood in Michigan, says most teen pregnancies are unintended, and one in four teenaged girls has a sexually transmitted disease, two reasons that prevention should be a top priority in the state.

"We want people to be aware that teens need good sex education, and good ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."

Another critical goal for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, adds Long, is to prompt parents to talk candidly to their teens about sexuality. It can be a tough conversation to start, but long says her organization offers training classes for parents that can help. Research shows that, when lines of communication are open with adults they trust, teens are less likely to have sex at an early age.

"Parents are the most important sexuality educators for their teens, and we parents need to make sure that we feel comfortable talking to our teens, because it can be really effective."

Michigan lawmakers are considering bills that would help focus on such prevention efforts, including accurate sex education and access to birth control. Critics say abstinence should be the only message teens get about sex; Long agrees that it is an important part of sex education, but abstinence education alone has not proven effective for reduce pregnancy or STDs.

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