Teens must learn more than just "abstinence only"In her...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 23, 1999

Teens must learn more than just "abstinence only"

In her April 16 letter, Christine Walsh said that an abstinence-only message works for her ("Teen says education about abstinence is best." But the majority of her high school peers are deciding to be sexually active.

Studies have shown that 66 percent of high schoolers have intercourse before they graduate. Given this rate of sexual activity, teens need more complete information about sexuality -- including information about contraception -- than abstinence-only programs provide.

About 3 million teens acquire a sexually transmitted infection each year and 1 million become pregnant. These rates can and should be lowered.

European teens face the same hormonal and "growing up" pressures as their American counterparts. But in Europe, where sexuality education and contraceptive care are more readily accessible, teens engage in sexual intercourse at a later age, have fewer partners and lower birth and abortion rates than U.S. teenagers.

A recent study in this country showed that making condoms available in high schools increased their use among sexually active students without increasing the rate of sexual activity.

Abstinence is the only 100 percent guarantee of safety, but for teenagers who choose to be sexually active, consistent and correct use of protective barriers such as condoms, in combination with other birth control methods, can significantly reduce unintended pregnancies and the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections.

Teens need to know the whole picture to be able to choose the most responsible behavior.

Roberta G. Antoniotti, Baltimore

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Maryland Inc.

Intervening in Yugoslavia isn't worth the price

War is a dirty, dangerous business. It's also an expensive method of imposing one country's will on another. So in the Balkans it's not enough to talk about how many bombs we've dropped or bridges we've destroyed. We need also to think about the costs and the sacrifice of our nation's other needs.

The F-117 stealth fighter we lost cost about $45 million. That could pay for hundreds of teachers.

One hundred cruise missiles cost about $100 million. That money could build hundreds of classrooms.

Our peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, which we were told would last less than one year, has now lasted three and its costs are approaching $15 billion.

Now we are engaged in another operation in the Balkans; its cost is now in excess of $2 billion. The president has asked for an additional $6 billion.

Let's take a poll with some honest choices. Ask Americans if they would rather have 1,000 new classrooms or ship 100,000 soldiers to Yugoslavia? Increase Medicare or fly 300 B-52s to the Balkans? Shore up the Social Security system or spend $50 billion in the Balkans?

Yes, you can call me a selfish American but also call me an angry taxpayer. I served in three wars, and, believe me, the mess in the Balkans is not worth the price.

NATO was chartered primilarly to defend its members. Let's list all members of NATO and determine who are in danger of being attacked by Yugoslavia: certainly not Britain or Germany, France or the United States. In fact, not one NATO member is in danger; Yugoslavia has no offensive capability or objectives.

Since we're not in danger, let's invest our tax dollars in classrooms, medical care, Social Security and tax reduction.

William L. More, Reisterstown

Questioning our policy in the Balkans

I have some questions about the U.S. intervention in Yugoslavia.

Since only Congress has the power to declare war, shouldn't President Clinton now be impeached?

NATO was established to protect Europe during the Cold War. Why is the alliance switching from a defensive to an interventionist function?

By what right do the United States and its NATO allies intervene in another country? Isn't the United Nations responsible for peacekeeping the global order?

From where are the millions we are spending bombing the Balkans to come? Social Security? Schools? Poor children and families? Public health?

Didn't President Clinton realize that bombing would strengthen Slobodan Milosevic's domestic support and smash the Yugoslavian peace movement?

The United States hasn't intervened to stop recent genocidal attacks in Africa, but is now acting in Europe. Are white lives more precious than black lives?

Julia B. Rauch, Baltimore

Try walking or cycling instead of driving

The Sun ran an article April 18 "Soaring prices at the pump fuel plan for `great gas out' " about plans to boycott gasoline-purchases on April 30.

This is intended as a protest against the oil companies. But wouldn't it affect the oil companies more powerfully if, instead of just not buying gas, as many of us as possible used alternative transportation that day?

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