The New York Times printed two interesting articles this weekend that I think are important to understanding the changing landscape of adolescent sexuality, here and elsewhere.
The first article is about the HPV vaccine. New Hampshire is offering the HPV vaccine for free to anyone who wants it. Washington and South Dakota have followed suit. New Hampshire isn’t able to keep up with demand, and is having to figure out how to prioritize who gets the vaccine first. Washington and South Dakota have had a strong response to the free vaccine offer, although they have not been running out of it. It seems that the people in these states have responded well to the state offering the vaccine, but not requiring it. There just hasn’t been much debate, because the people who are against the vaccine are simply not giving it to their children. While in general I think the vaccine is a good thing, I think this is a far more intelligent roll-out than the very poor attempts in Texas and Virginia at requiring the vaccine of all young women.
One more point before I move on to the next article. A young woman (15 years old) friend recently asked her doctor mother a very intelligent question: “Why aren’t boys getting vaccinated as well?” It frustrates me that reproductive health and issues around safe sexuality continues to be considered a woman’s responsibility.
The second article is about the changing abortion rate in China. It seems that the majority of the sex/reproductive education in China is directed at married women. The abortion rate among these women has been dropping steadily for some years now (it peaked in China in 1990 with 14 million abortions, and had dropped to 7.1 million in 2005; there are about 1.29 million abortions in the US every year). This drop in abortion rate, however, is among married women. Young, single women have increasing abortion rates – some having as many as two abortions in a 6 month period. The primary and very relevant lesson from this seems to be that a little reproductive education can dramatically reduce abortion rates. I see reducing abortion rates as something everyone should agree on as a national goal, regardless of whether they think abortion should be legal or not.