While a recent Planned Parenthood study notes that the highest rate of unintended pregnancies occurs between young teen girls and adult males at least six years older, the organization is only concerned that these teens have unfettered access to contraceptives and abortions, without parental notification. Where is their concern for the harm suffered by these girls who, by their own admission, were coaxed “involuntarily” to have sex, and who, as studies have proven, suffer much higher rates of STD’s, cervical cancer, and infertility?
The Guttmacher Testimony
In 1994, an Alan Guttmacher Institute study entitled “Sex and America’s Teenagers” indicated that 6 out of 10 girls who had sexual intercourse by the age of 15 had partners who were at least six years older, and had pregnancy rates three times that of other girls. Two years later, the Urban Institute cited a study in which “three quarters of females who had sexual intercourse before age 14 reported having had sex involuntarily” (“The Fathers of Teen Mothers”, Washington Times, April 9, 1996).
More recently, a 2006 study published by the same Guttmacher Institute supported those earlier studies, and also indicated that “one in four first sexual relationships between females aged 16 and younger, and partners five or more years older were classified as nonvoluntary.” The study also reiterated the earlier findings that young teens who have sexual partners at least four years older have a much higher pregnancy rates — three times greater — primarily because “female teenagers fear more negative reactions from older partners if they bring up using a condom.” (Manlove, J., Terry-Humen, E., and Ikramullah E. , Young Teenagers and Older Sexual Partners: Correlates and Consequences for Males and Females).
Furthermore, in a 2008 Guttmacher study, it was found that teens who had sex with a partner four or more years older “were [two times] more likely to acquire an STD as young adults.” (Ryan, S., Franzetta, K., Manlove, J., and Schelar, E. [March 2008], Older Sexual Partners During Adolescence: Links to Reproductive Health Outcomes in Young Adulthood) Those same teens also suffered much higher rates of pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, infertility, and cervical cancer. (Ibid.)
As common sense would dictate, and based upon all of the adverse physical and psychological results of early teenage sexual activity with older partners, the authors of the Guttmacher studies strongly argued for sexual abstinence for these teens.
Our results emphasize the importance of programs to prevent early sex among both males and females. In addition, these findings suggest that adolescents, particularly young adolescents, should be made aware of the risks associated with forming relationships with older partners. In particular, program providers should be alerted that young females who engage in early sexual activity with older partners are at especially high risk of adverse reproductive health consequences. Finally, programs that address characteristics of healthy romantic relationships and highlight problems associated with potentially unequal power dynamics between partners could benefit both males and females. (Ryan et al., 2008; emphasis mine.)
Planned Parenthood’s Non-Response
In 2013, Planned Parenthood (PP) published a paper entitled, “Pregnancy and Childbearing Among U.S. Teens.” In this paper, PP documented statistics of teen pregnancy, and noted that the greater the number of sex partners, the more likely that pregnancy will occur: teens with two or fewer sex partners had the lowest rate of pregnancy among sexually active teens.
PP also referred to the above Guttmacher studies in indicating that teenage girls who had partners who were six or more years older were 3.7 times more likely to become pregnant. Although the PP document did not elaborate, this number was taken from the Guttmacher studies discussed above.
While the PP document goes to great length to discuss the hardships which teenage girls suffer if they choose to keep their babies, and the difficulties those babies may have, there was no discussion of the increased occurrence of STDs, cervical cancer, infertility, or further reproductive problems as a result of early sexual activity with an older partner. In addition, there was no mention of the Guttmacher study conclusions regarding the reasons teen females who had much older sexual partners were more likely to become pregnant — the involuntary nature of the sexual involvement, and the feeling of powerlessness on the part of the younger female.
Rather, Planned Parenthood, ignoring the well-documented conclusions in the Guttmacher studies and their own earlier documentation of facts from those studies, stated that what young teens needed was “mandatory, medically accurate sexuality education programs that provide comprehensive information and encourage teens to make informed decisions; access to contraceptive and other forms of reproductive health care, including abortion; social acceptance of adolescent sexual expression as normal and healthy; straightforward public health media campaigns; and government support for the right of teens to accurate information and confidential services.” (Op. cit.)
Furthermore, “laws that mandate parental involvement only victimize teens; they do not prevent them from obtaining abortion services. Instead, these laws, which contain judicial bypass provisions, increase the delays teens experience in receiving services, simultaneously increasing the physical and emotional health risks, as well as the costs.” (Ibid.)
What Elephant in the Room?
So if we were to follow Planned Parenthood’s line of thinking, it shouldn’t concern us that:
- Six out of ten sexually-active girls aged 15 or younger are having sex with men at least six years older than themselves;
- At least one in four of those girls aged 16 and younger who have sex with men at least six years older have reported that the sexual activity is involuntary;
- These same girls suffer from STDs at a rate two times higher than other sexually active females;
- These same girls become pregnant at a rate three times greater than other sexually active females;
- These girls suffer from higher rates of cervical cancer, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and other reproductive-related complications.
By Planned Parenthood’s lights, it should matter to us whether teenage girls make “informed” decisions, and ignore whether the decisions are made for them by their adult “boyfriends”. We must ignore the fact that cutting out parental notification, in the name of “unfettered access”, allows Planned Parenthood to help hide the crimes of sexual predators. We must ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of girls will suffer physical and emotional damage, including potential loss of ability to have other children, because giving minors “unfettered access” matters more than protecting them from sexual abuse.
Predators love Planned Parenthood because they successfully distract our attention. And while we avert our gaze from those who really matter, Planned Parenthood is laughing all the way to the bank … with our tax dollars carried in their bloodied hands.