The California Department of Public Health has begun a program of providing free condoms by mail to children as young as twelve.
The Condom Access Project (CAP) was rolled out the week of February 14th in Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Kern and parts of San Francisco counties under the direction of the California Family Health Council. These areas were chosen, according to the STD Control Branch of the Department of Public Health, because of the high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections among teens in these counties.
Teenagers are directed to a website, TeenSource.org, where, after filling out the request form, they can have a free package of ten condoms along with lubricant and sex-ed literature mailed to their home addresses in a plain yellow envelope.
Supporters of the program admit that while abstinence is the only sure way of preventing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, they believe that providing more free condoms will help to decrease California’s staggering teen pregnancy and STD rates.
“Usually when we see high numbers, there’s a lack of access to comprehensive sex education and reproductive services,” Amy Moy, vice president of public affairs for the Family Health Council, told the Bakersfield Californian. “There may also be a culture in the community where things like comprehensive sex education and related issues aren’t discussed and resources aren’t available.”
“We can’t keep our heads in the sand and pretend there isn’t a problem. We know teens are engaging and we want to make sure they’re as safe as possible,” Moy added.
However, a spokeswoman for the Bakersfield Pregnancy Center, a group that promotes abstinence, said that parents will object to the scheme and teens will get the message that the state is encouraging them to engage in sex.
“I would think the overwhelming majority of parents in Kern County wouldn’t think this is a good idea,” Linda Davis told the Bakersfield Californian. “And I don’t think their kids would have the nerve to request them.”
Across the West attempts at reducing STDs and unintended pregnancies by making condoms and other contraceptives easily available to children and teens, has not resulted in the anticipated reduction in teen pregnancy, abortion and disease.
In one case, a report on a massive sex-ed and contraceptive program carried out in Scotland and aimed at children aged ten to 18 said the initiative failed and that teen pregnancies and rates of sexually transmitted diseases continue to climb. Another study in Spain found that as contraceptive use increased, the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion rate climbed right alongside.