Congratulations to the Los Angeles Times for the informative and enlightening series on teen-age pregnancy by Shari Roan ("1 in 8: Who's To Blame for Teen Pregnancy," July 9-12). This series presented some of the most candid and factual information as to cause and effect of this national dilemma.
While we are looking for solutions--education, accountability, etc.--we must also look closely at part of the root cause. According to the story, "New survey data show that as many as 62% of pregnant teen-agers are victims of past sexual abuse--most often at the hands of adult men such as fathers, stepfathers, mothers' boyfriends, stepmothers' sons or other male family acquaintances."
Stopping the sexual exploitation of our children is fundamental for a healthier and more responsible attitude for youngsters who are confused and feel they have no control over their futures. How can these children feel they have control when predatory adults victimized and abused them as little children?
CLAIRE R. REEVES
President/Chief Executive Officer
MOTHERS AGAINST SEXUAL ABUSE
As a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher who works with teen-agers, I'd like to commend you on your Life & Style series about teen pregnancy.
Two years ago, I taught at a predominantly Hispanic, low-income neighborhood school. On the first day of class, I saw so many pregnant teen-agers wandering the campus that I thought there was a special program at the school. I later found out it was the norm for half the graduating class to have children by graduation.
The reasons for their behavior made sense when you examined their environment. Many of the students are immigrants from Latin American countries where teen-age motherhood is not only common, it is respected. Second, pregnancy provided them access to Aid to Families With Dependent Children programs and health care, boosting family income or providing a way out of an abusive home. Third, many gang-involved youths felt it was likely they would never reach adulthood and wanted to leave a child behind.
What shocks me the most is that I graduated from a predominantly Hispanic LAUSD high school 13 years ago, and the teen pregnancy problem seemed to have been conquered almost completely at that time. During my high school years, only two girls I knew became pregnant and kept their babies. Perhaps there were more abortions before the right-to-life movement became a strong political force in this country, or perhaps it was the more realistic approach to sex education then that taught prevention, not abstention.
If one in eight teen-age girls are getting pregnant, obviously "just say no" doesn't work. Furthermore, our government needs to quit being the co-dependent party in this tragedy. We need to stop enabling this behavior by disallowing AFDC benefits to those under 18, forcing the teen's parents to pay for the offspring created by their failure to supervise their teens. In addition, contraceptives as well as information about abortion and adoption should be readily available at schools across the country. Until the adults take action, nature will run its course and children will continue to have children.
JUDY L. BERES
The question from Shari Roan's article, "Are We Teaching Too Little, Too Late?" (July 12) requires an answer. Yes, we are teaching too little about abstinence.
Contrary to what has been said, abstinence has never been "taught," only mentioned as it has been considered a "religious" teaching. New textbooks are only beginning to emerge with limited teaching partially complying with the new abstinence law passed by the state legislature in 1989, requiring teaching refusal skills, consequences, decision-making, dealing with peer pressure and legal ramifications.
There is much evidence that abstinence education works over an extended period of time and that making a decision to abstain from sex until marriage has proven helpful to teens. Existing programs prove abstinence works.
* Best Friends has worked in Washington, D.C., since 1987. Since the program began, only two pregnancies have been reported with more than 400 girls involved.
* Teen Aid from Washington state in a five-year study of 7,000 "at risk" teens shows one year after having their abstinence-based program, 22.4% were sexually active while of those not taking the program 37% were sexually active. This shows teen sex is neither inevitable nor irreversible.
* An Orange County organization, Choices, found when teens in grades nine through 12 were given good information, 26% of the students who had previously said yes to sex or were undecided changed their opinion, saying they desired to wait until marriage.
REV. LOU SHELDON
Traditional Values Coalition
Re "Are We Teaching Too Little Too Late?" by Shari Roan: Sex education in the schools is great. It is another sexual awareness input that teen-agers need to continually remind them of the responsibilities of being a parent.
But this is not enough. Parents need to be more proactive in their children's sex education programs. Issues such as morality, challenges concerning continuing education after a child is in their lives, finances and a topic that is not really stressed enough--spiritual challenges.
This is easier said than done. Parents don't have the time to dedicate to their children's sex education in the home. They are too busy working long hours so children go without the proper guidance.
Sex education needs to be more than school education. It needs to be home education \o7 and \f7 church education.