Instead of Inciting Blame, Young Father in Britain Should Remind Us Ab-Only Doesn’t Work

Erin Wethern

An entire country is outraged over a very young father. Instead of looking for someone to blame, we should all realize: abstinence-only has failed young people.

I
have always believed that sex is something deeply personal. As such,
it is up to an individual to decide what constitutes appropriate behavior
for him or herself. In other words, I know what is right for me, and
I would never use my personal standards to judge anyone else’s actions
(assuming, of course, that all parties involved are behaving legally).

That
said, every so often a story pops up that tests that belief. Most recently,
it is a sensational story out of Britain regarding a thirteen-year-old
father, Alfie (who was actually twelve when his new daughter was conceived).
Alfie’s girlfriend, the mother of baby Maisie, is only fifteen herself.

I
think about myself at thirteen compared to the person I have become
(I am now twenty-three) and the two are worlds apart. The last ten years
have been vital in developing me into the adult I have become. How would
my life be different had I been trying to raise a child while simultaneously
trying to grow up myself? Would I have had the same opportunities and
experiences? Personally, I do not want to have children and I am glad
that I have never had to ask myself those tough questions.

However,
this story is not about me or what I believe. It is about the fact that
a teenage boy in England whose voice hasn’t dropped yet, and who really
looks more like an eight-year-old, is now in charge of another person
and an entire country seems to be outraged about it. Furthermore, the
British can’t seem to decide where to point the finger of blame: the
parents? The school system? The Labour party?

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In
my humble opinion, kids are going to do what they want, regardless of
what their parents or their government believe is right for them. If
there is a takeaway message that we should all learn from the last eight
years of abstinence-only education is that people – young and old – are
going to have sex whether we want them to or not. Rather than attempting
to regulate who can and cannot have sex, we should work on empowering
people to make the decisions that are right for them. In this case,
that means teaching students about sex, about contraception and relationships.
And we need to reach them while they’re still young.

Fortunately
for young people in Britain, these lessons are on the way. In October
of 2008, the British government, in an effort to reduce teen pregnancies,
has introduced a new curriculum of comprehensive sex and relationship
education that will be mandatory for all schools, public and private.
While this curriculum, known as the personal, social, and health education
(PSHE) will not be introduced until next year. You can read more about
Britain’s reforms in sexual education the US can look to for inspiration,
here
.

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