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Birth Control for a 16 Year Old?

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QUESTION

My daughter is 16 and wants to be on birth control. My husband and I are against this. What should we do?

RESPONSE

First, while it might seem obvious, ask her why she wants birth control. Make sure that you know what is going on. Are there any medical reasons why she may need contraceptives to control menstrual pain and excessive bleeding? Is there a boy who is pressuring her to surrender her virginity? Is she already sexually active? Many young people would probably not even bring this up with parents. They would just do what they are going to do. The fact that she has opened up to you says volumes about how you have raised her. She is being honest with you. Be equally frank but also compassionate with her. The transformation from a child to an adult is not easy. If mistakes have been made, no matter how angry you might feel, let her know that she is loved and that you will always be willing to forgive and help her.

Second, while you would not want her to become a teen mother, a Catholic Christian would become complicit with sin be paying for contraceptives and enabling, even if indirectly, a promiscuous lifestyle. She is living under your roof and as parents it is reasonable for you to want any minors to live by your values. What they do when they grow up and move out is up to them. Right now, they are dependent on you for clothes, shelter, food and money. Kids who are not yet able to take care of themselves should not be sexually engaged. Playing house is not the same as actually keeping one with hard work and sacrifice. Gauge, as best as you can, her current maturity as this will impact upon the advice you give and her capacity to understand and accept.

Third, let her know that you love her and discuss the value of purity. Has she had any instruction on the theology of the body and why couples should wait until they are older (and married) before having intimate sexual relations. If she is a committed Christian, direct her attention to the bible passages that discuss the sin of fornication and how it can cost us a share in the kingdom of God. The ideal is not jumping from bed to bed but to find a stable long-term and committed relationship.

Fourth, know that your stance will find opposition among her peers, teachers and others. She may even cite them against you. Remember that public schools regularly distribute condoms to youths and in several instances school nurses have assisted youths in getting abortions. They will argue that it is only natural that she wants to explore her sexual identity and that if you are “good” parents that you would “understand” and want to protect her. Little credence is given abstinence from this quarter. There will be an effort to “guilt” you into changing your minds. It may even be thrown into your face that you, as a couple, used contraception or became sexually active when younger. If such is the case, let her know that you only want her to avoid the mistakes you made. Let her know as well that women, with or without birth control, are often victimized and abused in promiscuous sexual relationships. They are frequently exploited and their dignity as persons is cheapened as no more than “meat” for men who place lust over (real) love.

Fifth, discussions between a mother and daughter about sexuality can be opportunities for wonderful female bonding; but do not go along with the crowd that says a sixteen year old should initiate a carnal life. Talk to her about the joys of being a young woman and her natural attraction to boys. Speak frankly about helping young men to be their better selves and looking for a man that would respect her as a person and not simply want to exploit her body. Speak of the sacred elements of marriage as well as about the perils of teenage sex, especially about HIV and the venereal diseases that afflict millions of people. Sexual intimacy and the marital act should be directed to the fidelity of spouses and to the gift of life. It is horrendously corrupted when reduced to self-seeking pleasure and the pollution of the flesh. Sex should be directed to life. When misdirected, sex ushers forth death, in diseases that afflict the partners or in the killing of children, either through direct abortion or through the abortifacient action of numerous contraceptives.