A leading pediatricians group is drawing fire for “diluting” its previous position on teen sexual abstinence and urging doctors to “help ensure” that all teens have access to contraception, including emergency contraception.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) new teen pregnancy prevention policy, released this month in its journal, Pediatrics, is “a great disappointment,” said doctors with the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin, Texas.
It “rehashes old, failed arguments” about teen pregnancy prevention and fails to look at “the whole child,” said the institute, which supports sexual abstinence for teens.
Previous AAP policy said: “Abstinence counseling is an important role for all pediatricians,” said leaders with the American College of Pediatricians in Blountville, Tenn. The new AAP policy not only drops that language but “dilutes” support for abstinence by omitting favorable research about it while favoring the “safe sex” approach, they said.
Other groups, however, are applauding the new policy, which was written by an AAP committee led by Dr. Jonathan D. Klein of the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center.
The AAP should be “commended and applauded for following the research, in spite of the political pressure to do otherwise,” said Bill Smith, public policy director for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, which supports comprehensive sexuality education and opposes federal funding of programs that teach a strict sexual-abstinence message.
The AAP’s new language on emergency contraception is also a welcome change, said Kirsten Moore, president of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, which sponsors a Web site on the issue at www.backupyourbirthcontrol.org.
“Early access to emergency contraception is a key component of helping reduce the rate of adolescent pregnancy,” Ms. Moore said. The AAP’s new policy means doctors will start educating each other about it, she said.
Emergency contraception, which also is called EC, refers to a series of high-dose birth control pills taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. The pills can prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation or end a pregnancy by blocking implantation of a fertilized egg.
Questions have been raised about whether EC is safe for teens, and the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve an EC product, Plan B, for nonprescription use.
Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America said yesterday she was surprised that the AAP would sign off on a policy giving all teens access to “the morning-after pill.”
The main reason it has not been approved for nonprescription use is that it has not been tested adequately on teens, she said.