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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Abstinence Only Sex Ed

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Author Topic: Abstinence Only Sex Ed
sundial
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I am wondering about what kind of limits are placed on school officials in schools that are receiving state or federal funds for abstinence-only sex ed programs. What happens if a student goes in private to the school nurse or a guidance counselor asking for information that wasn't taught in the classroom (eg, how to obtain or use birth control or how to get STD testing)? Do abstinence only programs prevent school representatives from answering one-on-one student questions like these? Can the school provide student with a referral to a family planning clinic?
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PenguinBoy
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As far as I know, the abstinence only sexual education programs are simply employed by the school for the purpose of providing teaching material etc. There's nothing legally binding about them, the school can still do what they want. It is inevitably the school that is likely to impose rules on their staff.

Some schools may consider the training and purpose of the nurse something aimed at helping the students, especially in a crisis situation, and in privacy. I don't know how much intervention a school admin can have there. But if a school is opting into abstinence only, then the likelihood
of them hiring an unhelpful nurse is slightly higher.

In general, I hope to be corrected if wrong, but healthcare professionals no matter where they work really should provide as much help as possible to any patient and provide as much information as possible on info concerning STIs, birth control or anything else.

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sundial
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I agree that healthcare professionals should provide as much help and information to patients as possible regardless of where they are working. Unfortunately, though, if a school is opting into abstinence only, I guess the students may not be very likely to ask the school nurse questions about access to birth control or STIs?

Now that I've read what people are posting about what is, and isn't, being taught in sex ed, on the one hand I'm glad there are other great resources for students to get information (like this site!), but I worry about the impact of abstinence only on students who lack access to the web and/or lack ability to travel to a clinic like Planned Parenthood.

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Horizon
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Even if a school's sex-ed program is abstinence only, it is likely that the students will have heard about birth control & STIs before having had that class, (though the validity of what they heard from friends can often be disputed, and even some parents don't bother to teach their children about safer sex because they assume it's in the school's hands, and well...you know how that goes.)

Hopefully, sundial, more teens will take an interest in learning about safe sex, if anything good comes out of the abstinence-only issue.

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Stephanie_1
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Just to touch on some of the legal issues involved ... What a school can and can't do as far as a curriculum is concerned is actually mandated by the state. You'll likely find that while a state's standards may no go along with abstinence only programs, there isn't usually strict guidelines as per how far a curriculum must go (Where health and sexual education is concerned at least. Very different from math or science etc.). For instance most states require that health classes teach about puberty and changes associated with that but many still allow abstinence only programs. Where this is the case it is up to the school board to decide what will and will not be placed in the curriculum.

The school nurse actually doesn't have to follow any guidelines as far as a curriculum is concerned - because they're job is for the health and welfare of the students. A student asking for sexual health information or going to a nurse with a suspected problem (even something like where to get condoms or even EC), the nurse isn't under any obligation to the school as per their decisions on what is to be taught. Not providing this information isn't putting the student's health first ... and really that's the nurses job.

A counselor would likely either speak with the nurse without naming the student or have the student speak with the nurse about the questions they have – to make sure all information provided is accurate. They're not legally allowed to tell anyone because the student isn't threatening their safety or someone else's. It is important for school counselors to clarify that their consultation is on behalf of students and that only the students are their clients - and so they also don't follow the same guidelines as per curriculum that the teachers must.

Not to mention I don’t think administrators would even get to that information, because any correspondence would be legally sealed I believe. I’m pretty sure administrators don’t have the right legally to view those files.

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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sundial
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Sorry, Horizon. I get it that most will have heard about birth control etc (it hasn't been THAT long since I was in high school [Smile] ). I guess my concern is more about some practical issues like when and where to get EC or STI testing. (Others may be different but I don't think I knew about Planned Parenthood until I got to college and I didn't know it's possible at least in most states to get the pill without parental consent if you are under 18). Anyway, I think that this site is great and I wish that something like this had been around when I was a teen. Thanks to all the volunteers for doing such a great job.

[ 03-17-2008, 03:56 PM: Message edited by: sundial ]

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sundial
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Thanks for the info, Stephanie_1. [Smile]
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Horizon
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Gotcha, sundial [Smile] Stephanie's on the ball.

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-Kayla
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eryn_smiles
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Hey guys,
Is abstinence based sex ed something which is only prevalent in USA and/or Canada?

I've never heard of it being used in Australia and NZ. And at high school here, although our health education was fairly basic, we werent ever taught to abstain until marriage.

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virgin4ever+proudofit
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Re: eryn_smiles (March 29 post, 4:28am)
I think it's sad if Australia/NZ don't have an abstinence program. I do believe abstinence is a practice all around the world. By having sex before marraige (or having contact with anyone who has had contact w/ someone else), you can get tons of infections and diseases that can harm you for life and many are permanent and will not go away (no medicines can cure them, either). BTW, in 1994 $16,638 million was spent in the US from only 10 different STDs. (some may call them STIs) And, currently there are 68-83million cases of these STDs. Pretty sad, right!?! I'd also like to tell you that 3 out of 4 men who had sex did not tell their partner they had an STD. Any type of sexual activity (ANY body fluid contact) can spread STDs. So oral sex/mutual masturbation IS NOT SAFE. THERE REALLY ISN'T A SAFE SEX. I'm telling you these facts from A.C. Green's Game Plan Abstinence Program. You can decide what you want to do with your life, but I know I'm not having sex before marraige and I'm DEFINITELY not having it with an infected person.

[ 03-31-2008, 07:50 PM: Message edited by: KittenGoddess ]

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JamsessionVT
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virgin4ever+proudofit:

Scarleteen is a pro-choice site. Not just in the sense of a woman's right to choose, but in the sense that we respect ALL choices made by young adults about their sex lives. You can contract STD/STIs whether you're married, single, gay, straight, man or woman. It doesn't matter. Yes, STDs can be spread through body fluids/contact, but that is an inherant risk in ANY sexual activity, not just those before you get married.

You're right, there is no such thing as 100% safe sex. But you can SIGNIFICANTLY cut those risks by being smart and doing what's right for you. Abstinence isn't for everyone, and I'm going to ask that you respect this and all other sexual choices that don't correlate with your own beliefs, OK?

[ 03-31-2008, 07:43 PM: Message edited by: JamsessionVT ]

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Abbie
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Heather
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As well, in our user agreement, we talk about misinformation.

There are not "tons" of sexually transmitted infections. Discounting things like the common cold, which can also be transmitted through sex, of infections which are only or primarily sexually transmitted, we;'re talking about around 12. And of those, all but three are curable, and those three are also treatable. Long-term health problems due to most STIs are also generally due to not treating an infection quickly.

Lastly, of the funds the US spends on STIs, many of those funds go to treatment for married people: not just singles. STI rates are not just for singles, and in fact, one of the first big waves of STIs in the states happened due to an abstinence campaign during WWI...when husbands came back from the war and spread them to their wives. (The same, FYI, did not happen in other countries who, knowing marriage doesn't offer protection or guarantee monogamy, made a point of supplying their soldiers with condoms.)

Abstinence-only education books and curricula have been shown in numerous, credible studies to contain misinformation (and this particular curricula was included in the Waxman report, which listed it as one of eleven of thirteen abstinence-only curricula studied which was found to have much factual misinformation): so those don't tend to be sage sources to reference for medical information.

Beyond all of that, what Jamsession has pointed out here is imperative: participating at this site requires users not to proslytize.

[ 04-01-2008, 09:57 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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*Bramble*
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This might be a little off topic but I'll get to my two cents in a minute. I didn't know that Sex-Ed was controled by the state or that the school board had say as to the, for lack of a better word, details of how the class would be taught. So I learned something new tonight. That being said I'll try to make my little two cents short and sweet. This has been an idea running around in my head for a while now. Expand Sexual Education. By that I mean start it in 5th grade, which I think is when most schools give their form of, the talk, but, after that keep adding to it a little each year after that. By the time students reach high school, they should have a good understanding of what's going on with their and the opposite sex's body, so begin going in depth about STD's and STI's, Birth Control, Various tests that are needed at various ages, Condoms, other alternatives ect. I'm by no means saying that these materials can't be covered earlier. I just figure by high school, people would be mature enough to handle it. Okay, that's my rant.. Off to read other posts

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Stephanie_1
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I think Tracy Kidder says is best, “Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students … public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.”

Everything with setting up a curriculum begins with the national government in their standards of what should be learned by certain grade levels, then to the state and their standards with their own decided upon grade levels. Based upon these two sets of standards a school district (basically the school board) chooses what curriculum materials will be used to teach from. Then it goes down to the teachers to plan individual lessons based on the chosen curriculum. A bit wild isn't it?

I agree that it would be a great thing to teach quality sexual education in younger grades and add on to that knowledge throughout the different grade levels. The problem I think you’d run into is so many adults are uncomfortable talking about sex – let alone finding a teacher knowledgeable in the material that could not only tuck their personal biases into a drawer, but additionally not add to the list of common misconceptions already sitting in the student’s minds. I think many adults would be surprised with how mature students can be about a subject if it’s taught to them in the correct manner. As sad as it is … finding good teachers for this subject area is very difficult (especially considering many adults have trouble dealing with the fact that young people do have sex).

And the thing is, young people really do want to know the truth about sex, risks, birth control, sti’s, etc. This site is an excellent example of just that fact –an information source where people can come and their choices are respected and communication is open, honest, and comfortable. It’s somewhere safe to go to for answers. Wouldn’t it be great if the schools could make the same safe environment?

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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virgin4ever+proudofit
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I am very sorry JamsessionVT and Heather. I would not want to interfere with anyone's beliefs or opinions. [Embarrassed]
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SnailShells
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virgin4ever, I think you might be interested in these articles [Smile] :

http://www.scarleteen.com/blog/heather/2008/01/11/choose_wife

http://www.scarleteen.com/blog/heather/2007/10/23/one_ring_to_rule_them_all

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“I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.” --John Waters

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Project Sex Ed
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IF YOU HAVE A STORY ABOUT YOUR SEX EDUCATION THAT YOU WANT TO SHARE VISIT...

WWW.PROJECTSEXED.COM

Help be a part of the story!

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Heather
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(Hey Project Sex Ed, you've been spamming our boards, which isn't okay. A user who wants to promote a project or study for themselves needs to email us about it first, but then also not spam. I've turned off your posting privileges for now, but if you email me with what your project is I'm glad to see if it's something we feel okay about having solicited here.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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bluefreak44
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I don't want to get offtopic, but after Virgin's comment Jamsession said something that I want to clarify, particularly after Heather mentioned the misinformation thing.

Jamsession said that anyone can get STDs, married, single, gay, etc. However, my husband and I were both virgins when we got married, so I don't know how either of us could have carried anything into our relationship to one another. If both partners are virgins and are only with each other, how can they get STDs?

This just caught my attention because of something that happened recently. A friend has been researching Gardasil and really believes in it and has kind of been pushing it on some other friends. She told me I should get it because my husband could have had HPV when we got married. I asked if he could have had that passed down from his mother, because that's the only way it was possible. So that was just a bit of a sore spot lately, pushed into something that I'll never need (unless my husband dies and I consider remarrying) because "anyone" can get an STD.

I don't know the answer to the original question at hand. I was a teacher of something called PSI (Postponing Sexual Involvement) at my school. It was just about encouraging kids to wait at least until after junior high, but we didn't teach anything on actual sex ed. The main thing about restrictions I remember is that we weren't allowed to answer questions about our personal lives (like whether we had applied any of the things we had learned in JH). I understood why, because many of the other students teaching it had become active in JH themselves, but I know that because of that rule some students (like I did when it was taught to me) thought that it was just a bunch of hypocritical HS kids trying to get on the administrators' good sides.

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Heather
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quote:
If both partners are virgins and are only with each other, how can they get STDs?
That depends. With the majority of them, unless we are talking about acquisition at birth or through breast milk, you can't, or are at least highly unlikely to.

However, some infections classed as STIs (and we class infections that way which are MOSTLY or primarily sexually transmitted, not because they are only sexually transmitted) can be transmitted from other things -- such as through blood in nonsexual settings -- and others can be acquired from other kinds of intimate contact. For instance, most people acquire oral herpes in childhood from intimate, but nonsexual contact, like through a kiss from Aunt Ida. Pubic lice are often spread by shared linens.

As well, what we also unfortunately know is that a great many people simply are not honest about their sexual history or current sexual partnerships or experiences. Plenty of people in marriages do not maintain sexual exclusivity and also are not honest with spouses about that (and also practice safer sex with none of those other partners or spouses). It's obviously never, ever fun to think about, but it remains a pervasive reality for a majority of married couples per most studies: rates of infidelity are higher for men, but the rate for women has been increasing over the last couple of decades. As I've mentioned in other places before, one of the first major waves of sexually transmitted infections in the United States was primarily due to husbands coming back from war overseas and giving syphilis to their wives. In the present day in the states, one reason it's understood that HIV rates are so high among African-American women is due to down-low culture among African-American men (men who ID as heterosexual and are in heterosexual relationships understood to be exclusive, when in fact, they also have male sexual partners).

So, for all those reasons, that's why we do say -- and with accuracy that's so important, particularly since denials about all of that have played such a huge role in the spread of infections -- that anyone can get an STI.

[ 02-07-2009, 11:41 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SnailShells
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Well, I'm not an STD expert, but I do know that the herpes virus is VERY easily transmitted through non-sexual contact. Something like 70% of the population has a strain of the virus, mostly contracted through casual childhood contact.

The STI Files: Herpes

(Edit: Heather covered it!)

[ 02-07-2009, 11:45 PM: Message edited by: SnailShells ]

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“I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.” --John Waters

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bluefreak44
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Sorry, forgot about herpes. I knew several virgins (like when we were young) with cold sores.

The Gardasil thing has just struck a nerve with me lately because of discussion of schools making it mandatory for young girls. I definitely understand the reasoning, but since it hasn't been around a whole heckuva long time I'd be wary for it me personally because we haven't had as much time to monitor any long-term side effects. It just makes me wonder if I were still in school if I would some day have to face the prospect of being forced to get a vaccine I didn't want. It turns out in my case it would've been something I needed anyway. If my husband hadn't been a virgin, I would have wanted him to get an STD test before we got married anyway. (One of my friends that that was ridiculous until she got married and found out her husband, who she thought would be "clean" because he'd never been with "skanky" girls, was carrying HPV and she now has pre-cancerous cervical cancer cells.) If he carried HPV, I would have gotten the vaccine. I just don't like the idea of being forced to get a vaccine for something I would be careful not to expose myself to (because if I waited till I was married or not, I'd want any potential partners tested...at which point I'd know whether I'd need the vaccine or not). Just because tons of kids say they're going to wait until they're married and then don't follow through, it didn't mean my commitment was just some romantic or religious ideal of a kid.

I do know that a lot of STD cases come from faithful women and their philandering husbands. I've read before that that's one reason for the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Women aren't "sleeping around," but their husbands are and are bringing things home. I know it's a possibility and don't wanna be naive and think it absolutely could never happen. After waiting 2 1/2 years to be with each other, though, it's hard for either of us to imagine just "accidentally" falling into sex with another. It took a LOT of self-control to wait that long with one another.

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Heather
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I hear what you're saying about your feelings with all of this, and I think the thing to bear in mind is that because 50% of people, 60% of people, 70% of people do or experience a thing doesn't mean that for those minorities who are not in those groups -- whatever the group is about -- someone is being simpleminded or foolish, or that their different experiences are not real. By all means, that's always a tough part about being part of any kind of minority, facing a world and people that needs to try to serve the majority, because of course it's going to leave the minority feelings unaddressed or left out in some way. It also can foster invisibility, and the kinds of feelings you're voicing.

And when we start talking about not choices, but things made mandatory, I agree, that's where it starts to get problematic. In fact, if you want to see (what I think is) an even more horrific case of forcing that vaccine, get an eyeful of this: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/09/18/immigrant-women-seeking-status-adjustment-face-forced-vaccination

I absolutely hear your feelings on mandatory vaccines. I have always had mixed feelings about them, myself, and have yet, after many, many years of dealing with that issue in several environments and contexts, to land on a solid conclusion. However, that's never been limited JUST to Gardasil: there are already a lot of mandatory vaccines for children attending school, so I do think it's important to be sure that one is not being treated differently or singled out. I mean, I think my risk of tuberculosis was also exceptionally minute as a kid, and yet. If we're viewing Gardasil as radically different from any other vaccines, and are okay with all those others but not that one, I think it's sound to ask ourselves why. I say that because often it can be rooted in viewing infections or diseases which can be or are sexually transmitted as radically different than others, even though they aren't different at all from a standpoint of epidemiology and disease prevention/control, or about kind of enabling and/or internalizing ideas about sexually transmitted infections (and those with them or at risk of them) as somehow dirtier, more shameful, less moral, what have you.

For the record, I also hear you speaking to your values and the challenges of living by them, and I wanted to voice that while your values and mine are very different, I have a whole lot of respect for anyone living by their own ethics, and know how hard it can be, but how worthwhile. I'd also add in this particular set of choices, that I think people perhaps need to bear in mind that in some respects, someone like you and your husband are choosing to potentially take extra risks -- the risk of choosing not to have these safeties and having your trust and faith be the safety you choose -- because of the benefit doing that may provide you. We all obviously should have the right to make that kind of choice for ourselves.

[ 02-08-2009, 10:06 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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bluefreak44
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I'm glad someone understands.

What bugged me about the friend advocating mandatory Gardasil vaccines is that in other areas she's all about choice. A teen shouldn't have to tell her parents if she wants an abortion, but the school can force her to get a vaccine in order to remain enrolled? I just don't understand that logic.

I also don't agree with forcing immigrant women to get the vaccine. Particularly when many probably can't afford it.

I understand about other vaccines, too. I think when (or if?) my husband and I have kids we might put them on a delayed schedule. I know some friends who have done this. If a child just gets one vaccine at a time, and there's an adverse effect, you can more accurately identify which vaccine caused it.

I've always been wary of just following doctor's orders without checking things out myself. I was a little disappointed when some of my friends, when they became sexually active, just went to the doctor and asked what the best pill/shot/patch/etc. was. I went in knowing exactly what I wanted (although I don't pretend to know more than the doctor either). After two years I decided to switch to a pill (I was on the shot), and I again knew exactly what I wanted. It was actually one my small-town doctor wasn't even aware of. But considering some of my medical issues (long periods naturally, low iron, prone to headaches, etc.) it seemed like the best option for me.

But maybe it's just because I'm a journalist and always wanna know everything about everything. lol

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Heather
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quote:
What bugged me about the friend advocating mandatory Gardasil vaccines is that in other areas she's all about choice. A teen shouldn't have to tell her parents if she wants an abortion, but the school can force her to get a vaccine in order to remain enrolled? I just don't understand that logic.
Well, I think those two things aren't really comparable, simply because someone having an abortion has no impact on public health when it comes to posing any risk to others (in fact, from a public health standpoint, the greater our population, the greater the risk of disease, so odd as it may seem, a valid argument could be made that abortion is in the interest of better public health. As well, teen mothers have greater health risks than older mothers, as do the children of teen mothers, AND one reason for privacy laws for teens and others about abortion is to keep those women safe: sometimes disclosure about pregnancy or abortion result in abuses or deaths).

In the same vein, I think it's a sound argument that vaccines in terms of schools should be about diseases or infections which can be contracted by students or staff AT school, and in activities that happen at school. However, also sound to posit that whether or not sexual or other intimate contact is sanctioned at school, students do still mingle, may be choosing intimate partners through school, and thus it is a school issue.

But again, it's complex, and I for one do not know what the right call on it is yet. I can see sound logic and arguments from any side of it. Years back, when I was running a small alternative pre-K, myself and the parents had one heck of a time coming up with a vaccination policy everyone felt was fair and sound, and both parents which did not want to vaccinate and those who did not want their children exposed to serious illness unnecessarily had important and valid points.

But in terms of what you're saying with informing yourself as a patient, I'm always always going to advocate that, and think it is SO important when it comes to any of us getting sound care. Doctors are (ideally) educated, to be sure, but when BOTH patients and doctors are educated and informed, we're looking at a best-case scenario.

[ 02-08-2009, 11:39 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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