Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
I started working in the pro-life world in 1995, straight out of college with my degree in community health education. While I would not have considered myself “pro-life” before then, the compassionate work and practical resources of the Women’s Pregnancy Center drew me to not just oppose abortion privately, but to join a powerful movement of care raising high the banner of life.
The role I was hired for was a new one that grew out of the director’s vision to develop a prevention outreach to the community: “We want to reach the girls before they need us.”
I jumped in applying health education strategies for planning, implementing, and evaluating an outreach program whose goal was to prevent crisis pregnancies from happening in the first place. Certainly the faith-based message of abstinence until marriage supported such an effort, but so also did the physical, emotional, and relational health needs of the young people.
The “Directions” abstinence program went out to schools, churches, and community groups, and became a key part of the center’s ministry. The prevention efforts complemented the pregnancy support and post-abortive care to provide broader answers to abortion in our community.
Pregnancy help centers aim to be an alternative to Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, providing a compassionate response to help women and men facing an unplanned pregnancy choose life for their babies.
As we are countering the pro-abortion efforts after the pregnancy begins, we need to also counter their efforts before the pregnancy even happens.
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of sex education in the United States, boasting they reach 1.2 million people a year in education and outreach. They also boast of providing “comprehensive sex education” on “sexual behavior, including the full spectrum of ways people choose to be, or not be, sexual beings,” “sexual orientation and gender identity,” and “sexual health, including sexually transmitted infections, birth control, pregnancy and abortion.”
It’s easy to understand why Planned Parenthood would want to be out in schools and the community. If students follow their guidance towards “responsible” sex, they will need their contraceptive services, and, tragically, will come to seek out their STI testing and abortion services as well. They are gaining the trust of future clients. (Some have called that “grooming.”)
Planned Parenthood partners with SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) whose branding is “Sex ed for social change.” SIECUS’s five-part mission with sex education is clearly stated: “reproductive justice, LGBTQ equality, sexual violence prevention, gender equity, and dismantling white supremacy.”
A third national leader in “comprehensive sex education” is Advocates for Youth. “Young people have the right to abortion care and are leading the fight to ensure everyone has access.” This organization helps produce Amaze, whose cartoon-based videos target children with graphic sexual topics. The group’s “What is abortion?” video declares “an abortion is a very safe medical procedure,” promotes judicial bypass for parental permission, and calls pregnancy resource centers “fake clinics that exist only to talk a person out of an abortion.”
Where is the pro-life counter to these lies? Where are we with pro-life sex education?
We must work together now more than ever to show youth and their parents the truth about abortion, and sex, and pregnancy, and contraception.
The pro-life movement needs to link arms even more strongly with the abstinence (sexual risk avoidance) movement to proclaim a clear, relevant, and effective message of saving sex for its intended context of marriage. Today’s young people hear so many lies from social media and their peers. We must rise up to help them avoid the risk of pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted diseases (now at all time highs) and the emotional, mental and relational risks of sexual activity. We must rise up to show them the freedom and thriving that come, both now and in the future, when they greatly value themselves, and sex and marriage, enough to wait.
A few years ago, I wrote a program for fifth graders on puberty and adolescent development. As I explained fertilization as “the miracle of life” and showed a video with ultrasound images through the nine months of pregnancy, I remember thinking to myself, “This is straight out pro-life messaging — and they don’t even know it!” The science of human development is clear. The students loved watching the growing baby, and they learned at that early age that preborn children are very much alive.
Middle school and high school students need clear guidance and authentic support to develop healthy relationships, set and communicate healthy boundaries, and pursue health and wholeness across many life areas. They need medically accurate, age-appropriate information about pregnancy options, the effectiveness, failure rates and risks of condoms and contraception (with pregnancy and STDs), and the concerns with “consent.” They need adults who love and care for them to help them know the deep meaning of sex shared in committed marriage and the blessings of pregnancy therein.
We can’t make abortion unthinkable if we don’t help today’s young people think differently about sex. Let’s do that in our schools, churches, and communities. Let’s do that through pro-life social media and all outreach channels possible.
May we unite to dedicate more of our post-Roe efforts not just to compassion for crisis intervention, but to compassion for prevention as well.
Let’s reach the girls (and the boys) before they need us!
Lori Kuykendall, MPH, is President of Beacon Health Education Resources. She has served as teen outreach director and later director of pregnancy help centers.
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