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Yessay: Let's Talk About Sex

Yes Staff Report
    Is abstinence the only lesson sexual education needs to cover? Or are teenagers better off with information on pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and birth-control methods? Today, YES staffer Kelly Speer talks about her choice to stay abstinent until marriage— which doesn't have all that much to do with STDs or "saving herself." Her colleague, Nora Heineman-Fleck, champions the power of information for everybody.
--Susan Stiger, YES editor

A Baby's Needs Can Be Too Much for One Person, Especially if That Person Is 15
-- By Kelly Speer, sophomore, Cibola High

    I am a 15-year-old girl. I participate in track and soccer. I like mint ice cream and I hate mushrooms. I can't wait to get my provisional license, and I still have three months to go. And I'm abstinent.
    The decision to be abstinent was not hard for me, but it might be for other people my age. I'm not going to cite statistics or talk about how bad it must be to have a sexually transmitted disease. I've been hearing all of that since fifth grade's horror, "The Movie," and truly, those facts didn't play a part in my decision.
    The first and foremost reason I choose abstinence is the baby. The one I could conceive even if I were careful. If I were to get pregnant, there would be another human being depending on me for care and support. And I believe abortions are murder, but that's another story.
    So abortion is out, and an adoption would fill me with guilt— guilt that I made a bad decision and that an innocent person would pay the price for my mistake. Knowing you are wanted is a gift, and giving up a child without giving her that gift would scar me as well as her.
    So let's say I have a baby, one job flipping burgers and another waiting tables, and no high school diploma. What kind of life is that for a child? And I'd still have to choose between food and rent money. A start at the bottom is better than none at all, but it's still the bottom. I would have failed that child, and cheated it. I would be the one who said yes to sex— not that child, not the one I'd be dragging down with me.
    I am not ready for a baby. I wouldn't know how to teach it, or deal with crying or even how to ask for help. In seventh grade, everyone in Home Economics class was assigned a computerized "baby." The doll cried and needed its diaper changed and needed to eat and needed to sleep, and needed to be burped, and needed and needed and needed. I had it for less than two days and I couldn't handle the crying. That screeching sob that comes from a person in pain came constantly from a speaker in the back of that doll.
    I jumped, and I still jump today when a baby wails. If it had been a real baby, my only option would have been to give it up for adoption. There is no way I could emotionally or physically handle a job, school and a baby. Something would have to go, and it would probably be my education. And how would I impart wisdom and instruction to someone when I am still a student myself?
    In the end, each of us must choose his or her own path. To each his own life. To each her own path. This is mine.
More Information, Not Less, Will Help Teens With Decisions
By Nora Heineman-Fleck, junior, Albuquerque High School

    Here's a dose of reality: A lot of teenagers are having sex, and many of them aren't being safe about it, regularly risking pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
    But that doesn't mean abstinence-only programs are the only way to go.
    First, some facts:
    Almost two-thirds of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse, according to a national study by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. And, the foundation says, there is no evidence that abstinence-only programs keep students from engaging in dangerous sexual activity in the long run.
    In fact, studies reported in the American Journal of Sociology have shown that although students who sign "virginity pledges" may be more likely to delay sexual intercourse, they are less likely to use protection when they do have sex.
    That means we need information. Whether we're going to have sex tonight or not until our wedding nights, we need to know how condoms are used, what they do and how much protection they offer. And we need the same information about every other kind of birth control.
    Comprehensive sex education isn't detrimental to us. It does not "plant ideas" in our heads. We have the media for that— TV, magazines, music, movies and video games. There is no way to shelter us from that— the best defense against it is an education. We need an open dialogue with teachers and trusted adults— something abstinence-only education can't provide.
    This isn't saying school programs should encourage us to have sex. Comprehensive sex education is far from an invitation to experiment. It teaches that abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs 100 percent of the time. However, it also provides us with the information we need to prevent STDs and pregnancy if we aren't going to choose abstinence.
    Abstinence-only programs, whose curriculum consists of "don't have sex until you're married," are also insensitive to homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals. How do we embrace GBLT (gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered) teens when sex education doesn't even acknowledge they exist?
    Sex education that opens a dialogue between students and teachers is the ideal. Though this isn't always possible— sex is an awkward subject— censoring information is probably the worst way to keep us safe and healthy.