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Are Pennsylvania Teens Using Contraceptives Less Often?

June 29, 2009

YORK, Pa. - Sexually active teens are using contraceptives less. A new study by The Guttmacher Institute has found that some gains made in the 1990s convincing teens to use protection have waned in recent years. Planned Parenthood officials in Pennsylvania have an idea why and what can be done about it.

Suellen Craig is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central Pennsylvania. She says the first hurdle when it comes to getting teens the information they need about sex is to help them sort out what's truth and what's fiction.

"Young people today are just getting blasted with sexual messages on their websites and on television. It takes an awful lot of complete and accurate information to counter those."

Abstinence-only supporters say it offers a moral guide that teens should steer away from sex until marriage, and that not doing so can carry a heavy physical and emotional cost. Craig warns that abstinence-only sex education in schools only tells half the story.

"Obviously, abstinence is the only way that teens can be sure they don't get pregnant and don't get sexually transmitted infections, so we include it. But because we also know that teens are sexually active, we want to be sure they know how to protect themselves."

When it comes to teaching kids about sex in schools, Craig says, those who are sexually active must be put on the same level as those who are not. And although Planned Parenthood brings information to schools - including teaching teens how to talk to other teens about sex - mom and dad need to step up, too, she says, as uncomfortable as that may be.

"In junior high school, it really is time for them to have some of the messages about respect for oneself, respect for others. It's not all about the mechanics of sex, it's more about taking care of oneself."

More information is available from Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, 717-234-3024.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA