Should minors be allowed to get birth control?
- Birth control, also known as contraception, comes in many different options ranging from abstinence (complete refraining from sexual intercourse) to emergency contraception (the Plan B or “morning after” pill) to internal inserts (such as an IUD) or, the most popular method, orally taken hormonal pills.
- In 1937, Gallup produced the first public opinion survey on birth control; 61% of Americans said “they supported the birth control movement” while 26% said no and 13% gave no answer. In 1939, when Gallup asked whether people supported government health clinics providing contraception (only to married people who wanted it), 71% were in favor as 18% disagreed.
- The FDA first approved the birth control pill in 1957, but it didn’t become readily available to women until 1960. By 1962, a purported 1.2 million American women were on the pill.
- A 2015-2017 CDC report showed that 67% of 72.2 million US women aged 15-17 “were currently using contraception. The most common contraceptive methods currently used were female sterilization (18.6%), oral contraceptive pill (12.6%), long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) (10.3%), and male condoms (8.7%).”
Birth control is widely seen as a fantastic addition to modern life—a way to ensure uninterrupted happiness and sexual safety. However, no matter who uses it, minors or otherwise, accessing and using contraception can lead to haphazard habits and a fundamental misunderstanding of sex. Contraception isn’t for minors since minors aren’t ready to procreate. While birth control functionally exists to prevent procreation, other side effects, like decreased acne, make it appealing to minors. However, that doesn’t make using it altogether right.
Like abortion, contraceptives trivialize sex, removing it from the context of a long-time commitment to a spouse or family. William Newton of the National Library of Medicine argues contraceptives complicate social perceptions around sex. This disconnection between sex as purposed for family rearing leads to increased 'protected' sex, which still leads to unwanted pregnancies since birth control is not 100% effective. Unwanted pregnancies more often than not result in abortions.
Likewise, oral contraceptives increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and even stroke. They can cause women to gain weight by increasing their appetite and can also increase their risk for cervical and various other cancers. Negative health effects aside, the most popular contraceptives in barrier contraceptives are only as effective as the users want them to be. Therefore, those who are not motivated to or take the time to use them appropriately are not protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancies or STI's or HIV. Overall, contraceptives can lead to more unprepared, young individuals engaging in activity that can lead to life-changing consequences, whether that is an accidental pregnancy due to increased sex and a missed pill or future bodily effects like cancers or sexually cased diseases.
The CDC reports that an estimated 55% of teenagers have sex by age 18, proving the need for birth control. While some believe that providing birth control encourages teenagers to have sex, abstinence-only philosophy doesn't work in preventing sex or teen pregnancy, according to Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Unwanted teen pregnancy inhibits future success. According to the CDC, only 50% of teenage mothers receive their high school diplomas by age 22, compared to 90% of girls who avoid pregnancy. The CDC recommends comprehensive sex education, resources, and access to contraceptives as a means of prevention, as evidenced by the declining rate of teen pregnancy in recent years.
Without birth control, teenagers have few options. Depending on where a pregnant teenager lives, abortions can be limited or nonexistent. Even if abortion is legal and accessible, many abortion facilities require patients to have someone retrieve them after surgery, which can be difficult for minors with conservative families. In terms of adoption, the American foster care system falls short in several ways. According to Foster America, 50% of foster youth will not graduate high school on time, 48% of girls in foster care are pregnant by age 19, and foster youth are four times more likely to commit suicide. And according to Healthline, hormonal birth control also helps with other medical concerns. It regulates women's menstrual hormone production, which manages hormonal and ovulatory complications, such as irregular and/or painful periods, hormonal acne, endometriosis, and more. Denying minors birth control puts their health and futures at risk.