The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated their policy guidelines (PDF) concerning contraceptives for children under 18, recommending that the first line of defense against pregnancy for adolescent girls should be implantable contraception such as an IUD or a sub-dermal hormonal implant.
The AAP says that because young girls cannot be trusted to remain abstinent, reliably take a daily birth control pill, or use condoms, the best way to ensure they do not become pregnant is to fit them with a “long-acting reversible contraceptive” – a device that, once installed, will either provide a continuous dose of hormones designed to prevent ovulation, or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting, causing an early abortion. The group says that even very young girls who are not yet sexually active can be fitted with the devices, as a preventive measure.
The recommendations were co-authored by Gina Sucato, a member of Physicians for Choice. Upon their public release on Monday, they were met with mixed reactions.
“I’m so happy about this,” said Ana Radovic, a doctor at the Center for Adolescent and Young Adult Health, a sex clinic for children and young adults ages 12 to 21. Her organization provides IUDs and other contraceptives to children as young as 12, without requiring parental notification or consent. It also offers similar “confidential care” through the nearby Magee-Women’s Hospital, which performs abortions.
Radovic told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette she was eager to see more doctors implanting young children with IUDs. “This will give primary care physicians and pediatricians the much needed information that this is a safe procedure, even for young girls who have never had intercourse,” she said.
“The AAP’s recommendations will be a great help,” Heather Boonstra, director of public policy for the Guttmacher Institute – a pro-abortion think tank with links to Planned Parenthood – told the Post-Gazette. “This is about trying to change the minds of the provider community, more of who are recognizing that adolescents are appropriate users for the IUD.”
But child safety advocates and pro-life observers said the AAP recommendations send a dangerous message, and could even lead to lifelong health problems.
“As a father myself, I’m particularly horrified that this recommendation would come from this physicians’ group,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, in an interview with LifeSiteNews. “Everybody knows that teen sex is a bad idea, and a recommendation like this sends a mixed message. On the one hand, we’re trying to encourage teens to be abstinent, and on the other, we’re giving them the tools not to be.”
“We know that the biggest concern teens have about teen sex isn’t STDs, it isn’t the heartbreak that comes from it, it isn’t damaging their ability to bond later in life. The big concern they’re going to have is getting pregnant. Take that [concern] away, and teens are inevitably going to make less responsible choices.”
Scheidler said he was also concerned about the AAP’s heavy focus on “confidentiality,” which he said was really about “keeping parents in the dark” about their kids’ activities.
“The [AAP] recommendation not-so-obliquely suggests that even in states where [doctors] are not forbidden to talk to parents, [that they] not do so anyway,” he said.
Scheidler worries that giving children under the age of consent unfettered access to contraceptives could make it easier for rapists to hide their sexual abuse of minors.
“It’s just one more example of the mixed message and the contradiction here,” Scheidler said. “You know, the first contradiction is … we don’t want teens to be sexually active, that we should encourage them to be abstinent, but then we’ll discourage them from being abstinent by giving them birth control. Similarly, we say to physicians, you’re required to report sexual abuse of minors, but you’re also required not to tell parents about their minor children’s sexual activity – which in many cases, might by definition be criminal.”
Aside from the moral implications of fitting kids with long-term contraceptive devices, Scheidler said he was also disturbed from a safety standpoint.
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There are two types of IUDs currently on the market in the U.S. – hormonal and copper. The hormonal IUD, marketed under the brand names Mirena and Skyla, releases a constant dose of hormones to fool the body into thinking it is already pregnant, so it won’t release an egg. Failing that, the device makes the uterus inhospitable to a growing life, causing an early abortion. Mirena lasts for five years; Skyla, which is targeted at younger girls, lasts for three. Skyla is new to the market, but its big sister Mirena has been the target of thousands of lawsuits by users who suffered catastrophic complications, and is now the subject of a class-action suit.
The damaging effects of the Mirena IUD are numerous, but the primary risk is puncture of the uterine wall, which can occur in up to 1 out of every 1000 installations, according to its manufacturer, Bayer. Uterine perforation can lead to intestinal, bladder, bowel, or other organ damage; infections; scarring; infertility and even death from sepsis. Additionally, the chemicals released by the device have been classified by the World Health Organization as class 1 carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents.
As for the copper IUD, it carries the same risks of uterine perforation as its hormonal counterparts, but without the increased risk of cancer and other side effects caused by the chemical component. However, the trade-off is that it doesn’t work until a woman or girl is already pregnant – it effectively works as a tiny “abortion machine,” ensuring that no fertilized egg can attach to the uterine wall.
None of the implantable devices being promoted by the AAP offer any protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
“You know, I have three teen daughters myself,” Scheidler told LifeSiteNews. “The thought of them being counseled by a physician to consider the IUD or one of the implantable contraceptives is pretty shocking.”
In previous years, the IUD lacked in popularity due to its expense – a single device costs between $800 to $1,000. However, since ObamaCare became law, all insurance providers must now provide the IUD free of charge to their female patients upon request.
Additionally, federally-funded reproductive clinics provide the devices free to girls under 18, even if they are covered by their parents’ insurance, in order to help them avoid disclosing their sexual activity to their parents.