The Governor's Task Force on Teenage Pregnancy has a straightforward solution to adolescent pregnancy: abstain from sex.
In fact, that's the only solution recommended by the task force. An 82-page draft report released Wednesday took a "clear and positive" stand for abstinence as the only solution to teenage pregnancy.Not only did the task force not recommend contraceptives as a secondary solution, it went so far as to urge the state not to support contraceptives as an alternative to sexual abstinence by teenagers. Instead, the state should firmly base all adolescent pregnancy-prevention programs on the principle of sexual abstinence, the report said.
The task force had nine recommendations for the state of Utah:
-Base all adolescent pregnancy-prevention programs on the principle of sexual abstinence among teenagers.
-Withold support of the use of contraceptives as an alternative to sexual abstinence for teenagers
-Reauthorize the existence of the Governor's Task Force on Teenage Pregnancy Prevention for two additional years
-Develop and adopt a K-12 curriculum on family life and human development as part of the core curriculum requirements.
-Initiate a public education and information campaign to increase awareness of teen pregnancy and encourage prevention efforts.
-Target appropriate and effective intervention strategies toward youths who are at highest risk of teen pregnancy and early sexual activity.
-Involve the teens' parents or guardians, to the greatest extent possible, in programs to prevent teen pregnancy.
-Direct adolescent pregnancy-prevention efforts at both males and females.
-Provide continued or increase support for programs to prevent other problems among youths.
"Everyone on the task force agreed that abstinence was the best approach," said Sen. Stephen Rees, R-Bennion. Rees is task force chairman.
"But there were a few who said we need a fall-back position for those who can't be abstinent."
Two task force members were so unhappy with the exclusion of contraceptives as an alternative solution that they wrote a minority report.
Karrie T. Galloway and Dr. Kathleen McElligott disagreed with the committee's decision to purposefully withhold support for contraceptives.
Galloway works with Planned Parenthood of Utah. McElligott works with the Teen Mother and Child Program at the University Medical Center.
"There were many people who testified before this task force in support of contraceptives in dealing with teenage pregnancies," Galloway said. "We feel like that wasn't represented in the recommendation. That's why we wrote a minority report."
The task force decided against using contraceptives as a second solution because they felt it would send mixed signals to teenagers, Rees said.
"The task force wasn't willing to say on the one hand this group is capable, worthy and qualified for the abstinence approach but this other group doesn't have the capabilities and isn't qualified so they ought to be given the inferior approach of contraceptions," he said.
"We also felt there is great question as to whether or not contraceptive use does in fact reduce the pregnancy rate." The task force felt teenagers would be careless in the use of contraceptives and risk becoming pregnant anyway.
Galloway felt the report was dictating lifestyle choices to an age group notoriously resentful of being dictated to. "We are telling them what to think instead of teaching them how to think," Galloway said.
"We all know that teenagers are going to make their own decision on this issue. If we only give them one option, those teenagers who choose to be sexually active will not have those resources available to them to prevent teenage pregnancy."
The report does not lessen Planned Parenthood's access to teenagers or its status in the community, she said. "In no way should this report mean the task force is out to get Planned Parenthood for providing birth-control service to minors. But it seems to me we should have come to a more balanced recommendation."