- - Monday, July 27, 2015

Washington state recently implemented a taxpayer funded contraception initiative called “Take Charge” in many of its public schools. This program allows school personnel to implant intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-acting contraceptives (LARCS) in girls as young as eleven years old without parental knowledge or permission. A little reflection reveals this is contrary to both common sense and evidence-based medicine. Consider the facts below.

Washington schools require parental consent for the distribution of safe, age appropriate dosages of over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), but dispense contraceptive hormones that can cause blood clots and strokes without parental knowledge.

Washington schools have eliminated sodas and candy from campuses in order to promote healthful dietary habits, but encourage the high risk behavior of sexual activity for young teens by promoting the myth that teen sex is safe as long as you use hormonal contraceptives. 

Scientific research demonstrates the immaturity of the adolescent brain, specifically in the prefrontal cortex where complicated decision making occurs. This alone indicates the need for teens to have parental guidance. Research also demonstrates that parent-adolescent communication decreases all forms of high risk behaviors. Yet, the Take Charge initiative instead encourages adolescents to by-pass and — even deceive — their parents.

In accordance with the primary public health principle of risk avoidance, Washington schools urge adolescents to “Just say No” to the enticement of cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. Schools do not provide students with low-tar cigarettes so children will “smoke safely;” schools do not provide students with alcohol dosing guidelines to experience a “safe buzz;” nor do schools provide clean needles so students may “shoot-up safely.” Yet, this risk reduction approach is precisely the one schools take when it comes to sexual health and behavior. When it comes to kids and sex, schools predominantly rely upon the secondary public health principle of risk reduction and thereby promote the myth of safe sex.

It is myopic to believe that implanting LARCS and IUDs in children is the answer to the negative consequences of teen sexual activity. This is because sexual activity prior to a committed monogamous marriage relationship not only exposes the adolescents to possible pregnancy, but also to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), emotional distress and psychological disorders. The financial burden of STIs alone costs the United States’ health care system as much as $16 billion dollars annually according to the CDC.

Children and adolescents from 10 to 19 years of age are at greater risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection than adults, the CDC reports. This is due to the general practice of having multiple and higher risk sexual partners, and to the immaturity of the cervical tissue of girls and young women. The CDC has stated that of the 19 million new cases of STIs annually reported in the United States, 50 percent occur in teens and young adults under 25 years of age. Twenty-five percent of newly diagnosed cases of HIV occur in those under 22 years of age.(1) This translates into one in four sexually active female adolescents being infected with at least one STI. Most bacterial STIs are treatable, but may cause pelvic inflammatory disease and sterility, while most viral STIs, such as Herpes and HIV, infect the patient for life.

Adolescent sexual activity is also a risk factor for developing low self-esteem, major depression, and suicidal attempts.(2) Sexually active girls were found to be three times as likely to report being depressed and three times as likely to have attempted suicide when compared to sexually abstinent girls.(3) Sexually active boys were more than twice as likely to suffer from depression and seven times as likely to have attempted suicide when compared to sexually abstinent boys. 

All regions of the adolescent brain are immature, including the prefrontal cortex or judgment center which is responsible for decision-making. The prefrontal cortex is also poorly connected to other areas of the brain, making it more difficult for the adolescent to incorporate all the information learned prior to making a decision. The dopamine pleasure system of the brain is also in a state of rapid change, leading to higher potential for participation in high-risk behaviors and addictions. The younger an adolescent is when participating in any high risk behavior, including alcohol, marijuana and drug use, the more likely that behavior will become an addiction. Likewise, the younger an adolescent is when first engaging in sexual activity, the more likely it is that the teen will have more sexual partners, leading to increased risk of infection and depression.

Parental involvement is one of the most powerful deterrents to sexual activity, namely, communication of parental expectations.(4) Firm statements from parents that sex should be reserved for marriage have been found to be very effective in delaying sexual debut. Adolescents who are well connected to their families are also less likely to participate in high risk behaviors, including sexual activity.

Parents must “take charge” – and determine to shape and monitor their adolescent’s environment and experiences, while lovingly communicating the benefits of abstinence.

Physicians must “take charge” – and encourage risk avoidance policies rather than allowing adolescents to experience the negative consequences of a risk reduction approach to sexual health.


(1) Sulak, PJ and Herbelin, S. “Teenagers and Sex: Delaying Sexual Debut.” The Female Patient; Vol. 30, May 2005, p30.

(2) Hallfors DD, Waller MW, Ford CA, Halpern CT, and Brodish PH, Iritani B. “Adolescent Depression and Suicide Risk: Association with Sex and Drug Behavior. American Journal of Preventative Medicine 27 (2004): 224-230.

(3) McIlhaney, J and McKissic Bush, F. Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children. Northfield Publishing, Chicago. 2008, p.78.

(4) McNeely et.al. “Mothers Influence on Adolescent Sexual Debut.” Journal of Adolescent Health 31.3 (2002).Sieving, R.E. et.al. “Maternal Expectations, Mother Child Connection, and Adolescent Sexual Debut.” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 154.8 (2000): 809-816.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide