My husband shared a Scientific American article with me. (We have a “thing” for science-based reading – it entertains us.)
However, this article, in particular, surprised even me! The author, Michael Shermer, shared his article called “Abortion Facts: Education and birth control are slowly making the politics less relevant.” I highly recommend everyone read it.
In his article, he argues for the necessary and urgent need for comprehensive sex ed in the schools. Needless to say, he is a man after my own heart. The point of the article being, if you want to decrease abortion rates, then people must be informed about how to prevent pregnancy in the first place.
But one fact shared in his article literally had me choking on my dinner: A 2013 paper published the results of a long-term study of 7,870 American women. Of those women, 45 stated “they became pregnant without having had sex.”
Without having sex. Seriously.
How had I not seen this statistic before? Well, I certainly can’t unsee this one – and it breaks my heart.
My husband asked me why I thought these women believed they didn’t have sex. I’ve not read this research yet – it’s next on my overflowing plate – but I have some very definite ideas.
- They truly believed they did not have sex because they do not understand what sex is.
- They do not understand that they do not necessarily need to have full penetration for sperm to do their job.
- Their partner told them they did not have sex.
- They were sexually assaulted and were afraid to report it.
- They were drugged and sexually assaulted therefore have no memory of a sexual encounter.
- They were too ashamed to admit they had sex.
- They were afraid to tell their family they were sexually active and lied.
The author goes on to state, these women were “twice as likely as other pregnant women to have signed a chastity pledge, and they were significantly more likely to report that their parents had difficulties discussing sex or birth control with them.”
These women, had they been comprehensively educated about sex, could have prevented these unintended pregnancies.
What do we do about this?
It is imperative we teach just young people – and adults who missed out on sex education – about sexuality. Everyone should have at least a basic understanding of how their reproductive systems work no later than 8th grade. By that age, they should also understand how the horizontal bop between a penis and vaginal opening can cause a tiny human to magically appear 9 months later, and how to prevent that from happening. There are ways….and they work!
Let’s get real
We also need to educate all people that sex is a normal part of being a human. When we shame young people about having sex or have them promise not to have sex until they are married, we are doing them a tremendous, tremendous disservice. Often there is a belief that if your child “promises” not to have sex until marriage, they do not need to learn about sexuality – it’s unnecessary, of course! But the truth is, these promise-makers are having premarital sex just like everyone else; they just don’t know how to use a condom to protect themselves against pregnancy and disease. And I won’t even talk about how much fun sex will be once they are married – you think that the shame, embarrassment, and ick-factor magically go away on their wedding night?
Parents who want their kids to have a great sex life – whether they wait for marriage or not – should refrain from scare and shame tactics. That negativity will continue to cast a shadowy cloud over their bed. It’s okay to be sex-positive – tell them that sex is a beautiful thing! It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s marvelous! But remind them that sex requires mature decisions be made, usually as an adult. Conversations about birth control, consent, respect, and the ‘what-if’s’ should always factor in as they become sexually active.
There, I’ve just given you permission to be sex-positive. Your kids can thank me later.
If individuals are denied access to basic reproductive science information in school and in the home, health care professionals are the next line of defense. Granted, not everyone has access to health care, which in and of itself is heartbreaking. Which is why – and hear me out – which is why it is uber important that we continue to support Planned Parenthood and other community healthcare centers who provide care to the underserved. If we want to prevent abortion, we must give people a way in which to do so: affordable contraception.
Sex ed in the classroom is not a moral issue. Abortion is not only a moral issue. They are health issues.
Sex ed and abortion are health issues. They are science issues. They are education issues. They are economic issues. They are medical issues. They are social issues.
We must see beyond our own personal lens of moral rights and wrongs – which is often bathed in our economic status, educational levels, family upbringing, skin color, our culture, our religious beliefs, and even our zip code – only then can we support those who most need sexual health education and healthcare. Why? To prevent our young people, well, all people, from being ignorant about a truly science-based phenomenon known as sex. Let’s shed the stigma of shame and intolerance and support those who truly need help during a difficult time.
We must recognize that the lack of sex education, a lack of accessible, affordable birth control, and access to abortion is not only a moral issue. It is a health issue.