As a mother to three teenagers, I know my kids aren’t going to come to me with every single thing that is happening in their lives. I can only hope that the hundreds of times I’ve told them they are the most important thing to me, and that they can confide in me, they have heard me.
I also remind them there is no issue that is off limits between us, hoping it will sink in. But I also remember being a teenager very well. Going to my mother when I became sexually active wasn’t at the top of my list — and she was fairly open about that sort of thing. Thankfully, I had a friend who helped me make an appointment at Planned Parenthood and told me exactly what to expect.
I can honestly say now, almost thirty years later, had that option not been available to me, not only would I have felt a great amount of shame around having sex and would have kept it even more of a secret, I would have engaged in unprotected sex too.
I loved my boyfriend and I wanted to have sex with him. After we broke up, I wanted to have fun and engage in sexual acts with others — and it was my right to do so, and my right to protect myself.
I, along with every other person I knew as a teenager, wasn’t just curious about sex — we wanted to have it, a lot. Being intimate with someone is normal and natural and these feelings start flowing through our bodies after puberty. We don’t need anyone micromanaging these acts or feelings. That includes parents.
It’s so important our teenagers get the comprehensive sexual education they deserve, and the opportunity to protect themselves, because they are going to have some form of sex, whether we think they are or not.
I realized when my kids started going through puberty that I needed to be transparent about birth control and face the fact they are probably going to need it before I’m ready for them to need it … or I could cross my fingers, not talk about it, or offer it to them and hope for the best. The latter is not a wise choice.
Right now, in every state teenagers have the right to access contraceptives without parental permission. Their privacy is protected if they ask for it, and it needs to stay that way. Parents do not control the bodies (or the urges) of their children. Furthermore, teens are more likely to seek the appropriate services if they know their privacy will be respected.
My daughter might not come to me when she is sexually active despite our open relationship and I never want her to feel like that’s a stipulation if she wants birth control. I would be glad to be by her side, but I want her to be able to access the medical care and resources she needs whether I’m present or not. She should feel free and empowered enough to walk into her gynecologist’s office (or Planned Parenthood) and ask for what she needs to keep her body healthy.
It’s her body and her choice, period.
Some state and federal lawmakers are trying to make it so teenagers need parental consent before getting birth control protection. This not only doesn’t work, but it will put our kids at risk. Not only would this stop our teens from getting the protection they need, they wouldn’t get the proper medical care or health screenings they need once they are sexually active.
What we want is to empower our teenagers to make good decisions. We also want to acknowledge and respect their bodily autonomy.
Empowering our kids to make good decisions means giving them the education, tools, and opportunities to get what they need. When it comes to teens and sex, they need access to contraceptives (and STD/STI testing).
Having them come to a parent to get their permission to protect themselves isn’t going to keep them from having sex. What it will do is increase the likelihood of risky behaviors–putting our teenagers at risk for sexually transmitted infections and increased unintended pregnancy rates, not to mention violate their personal rights.
Giving teenagers access to birth control does not make them promiscuous. It doesn’t make them engage in sexual activity before they are ready. Can we please do away with that ignorant thinking? Studies have proven students who go to schools where condoms are available are less sexually active.
According to ACLU, “On average, young women in the U.S. have been sexually active for 22 months before their first visit to a family provider.”
My body, my choice applies to our teens and birth control too. We cannot tell a young woman what she can and can’t do with her body. We need to empower all women to make the best choices for themselves without shame or fear. We need to support funding for Planned Parenthood and other local organizations that support folks regardless of their age or ability to pay.
This is what’s working, this is how it needs to stay, and not only can we not afford to go backwards and let lawmakers make the decisions for our daughters and what they do with their bodies, there’s absolutely zero reason to do this. It’s not rooted in reality. It literally goes against scientific facts.
My daughter is the only only who gets to decide what she does with her body. I do not get to decide when she has sex, or who she has sex with. She doesn’t need my permission, nor does she need me to be okay with her sexual activity before she has access to birth control.
It’s not her father’s decision. It’s not her school’s decision. And it certainly isn’t the decision of some lawmaker who feels it’s okay to tell her that if she wants to have protected sex she has to do X, Y, and Z first. That is a gross violation of her agency.
We will never be able to eliminate all risky behavior for our teens. However, if we empower them to protect themselves without needing a permission slip, and if birth control is easily available to them and they trust the information will stay between them and their doctor, we are going to have more teens who protect themselves while doing something they are going to engage in anyway.
My body, my choice. Remember that — not just for ourselves, but for our kids too.
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