One national organization wants to fight high teen pregnancy rates in the United States by recommending that pediatricians prescribe or provide the morning-after pill before a young person might need it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of 60,000 pediatricians and specialists, endorsed the idea as a way to reduce unintended pregnancies in adolescents.
As part of the Cherokee County Public Health Department, Clinical Coordinator Cheryl Hill sees women every day - some as young as 13 - who receive some sort of contraception from their clinic.
"We teach abstinence, number one, especially to our adolescent clients, that that's 100 percent effective to prevent pregnancy, prevent STDs," she said. "But there are some cases they choose not to pursue abstinence, and they want to continue with the birth control."
The American Academy of Pediatrics released an online policy statement Monday stating that recommend pediatricians give advance prescriptions or actual emergency contraception products to teenagers under the age of 17 before they are needed.
They said, in part, "Adolescents are more likely to use emergency contraception if it has been prescribed in advance of need. The aim of this updated policy statement is to... encourage routine counseling and advance emergency-contraception prescription as one part of a public health strategy to reduce teen pregnancy."
"They're not telling them this is something that you have to do. I mean, but it is something that I think that they should think about," Hill said.
It's a decision Doreen Hague, the Director of Tyler's Pregnancy Resource Center, doesn't agree with.
"What we're telling these girls is go ahead, you can live your lifestyle the way you want," Hague said. "You can have sex. We'll make sure you don't get pregnant, or if you do, we'll take all the responsibility away from you."
Hague encourages abstinence until marriage, saying many young pregnant women she sees are lacking strong father figures.
And Hill says it's imperative that parents get involved in educating their children about sex.
"Seventy-nine out of every 1,000 births in Cherokee County are from a teenage parent," said Hill. "I would want my child to be informed. You don't want them to be in that situation, you don't want to think about your child engaging in sexual activity, but you want them to be prepared if they're in that place."
Currently, young women over the age of 17 and young men over the age of 18 can obtain the morning-after pill without a prescription.
To read the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement, click here.
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