You may think it can't happen to you, but every year about half (49%) of the approximately 5.4 million pregnancies occurring in this country are unintended. Among young people, the problem is especially serious. Each year, nearly 1 million young women aged 15 to 19 get pregnant, and at least 78 percent of these pregnancies are unintended. Among young women aged 20-24, there are just over 1.5 million pregnancies each year, and at least 58.5 percent of these pregnancies are unintended. Unintended pregnancy can have serious consequences for women and men: for your chances of finishing your education, for your financial future, and for the mother's health, not to mention the baby's health and development. If you find out that you are basically have three options: to continue the pregnancy and keep the baby, to have the baby and put it up for adoption, or to have an abortion. These are big decisions; take your time, and talk with your family or other trusted advisers. If you want to discuss your choice with a clinician, Planned Parenthood offers options counseling at their local clinics. abstaining from intercourse at any age is the most effective way to avoid unintended pregnancy. And lots of people are practicing abstinence these days, whether or not they've had intercourse in the past. Although the likelihood of having intercourse increases with age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 50 percent of young men and women have had sexual intercourse by the time they graduate from high school. If abstinence isn't for you, another option is to use contraceptive protection every time you have intercourse. A sexually active woman who does not use contraceptives has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within one year. And remember, no matter what you decide, learning about how to prevent pregnancy and STDs beforehand makes sense. Keep in mind that to guard against sexually-transmitted diseases, using condoms every time is crucial no matter what other method is being used. Using condoms alone, if you are perfectly consistent and correct about it, provides effective protection against most STDs, including HIV, and against pregnancy: only 3 in 100 women become pregnant over a whole year. Youíve probably heard different things about STDs. It's worth finding out the right information, because being infected with an STD would have an impact on your life. The risk is serious: by age 24, at least one in three sexually active people will have contracted an STD. What is there to learn? Plenty. Hereís what you need to know about the risks of unprotected sex. Each year, there are 15 million new cases of STDs in the US, including 10 million cases among people aged 15-24. Many of these people who have been infected probably thought they didnít need to worry about protection. While a few STDs are curable, many others can have lasting effects on your health and sex life. We all know that HIV is an incredibly deadly STD. In fact, half of all new HIV infections occur in people under 25, and HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death among young people today. Fortunately, there are many new medications for HIV/AIDS that help people with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. But the drugs are hard to take (you have to take many each day), do not work for everyone, and sometimes have side effects. These drugs are not a cure. Other STDs can cause recurrent symptoms, such as painful or itchy sores, and a select few can cause infertility (meaning you could never have children) and increase the risk of cancer or even death for both men and women. And get this: Almost any STD increases your chances of contracting HIV. In fact, people who already have an STD, like herpes, gonorrhea or chlamydia, are more likely to become infected with HIV than someone who does not have an STD if they have unsafe sex with an HIV-positive partner. To be blunt about it: the only way to be sure youíre having safer sex is to keep your partnerís blood, semen, or vaginal fluids out of your body. Abstinence is, of course, the safest way. But, if youíre going to have sex, always use condoms and dental dams. A Womanís Right - September 25, 2001 by Emily Chung If you were in an emergency situation, you'd hope 911 would be available to you and would send help quickly, right? It would seem absurd to need to ask for permission from your parents or your doctor before picking up the phone to call for help. In the case of an emergency involving a possible unplanned pregnancy, getting help may not be as easy as calling 911. Emergency contraception (EC), sometimes called "morning-after" contraception, is usually given as a set of pills that can reduce the risk of pregnancy ó if the first dose is taken within 72 hours of unprotected vaginal sex to prevent fertilization or implantation. Women choose EC for a number of reasons, such as using a contraceptive method that fails, being forced to have unprotected sex, or not using contraception. Many people consider the risk of an unwanted pregnancy to be a major emergency. Many states have laws that make EC available to women, as long as a medical professional prescribes it. That can be limiting to many young women who can't get to a clinic or to see a doctor. EC has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is considered safe for women to use. Opponents of EC claim that it is unsafe and not effective. However, research has shown that EC is safe and could potentially prevent 1.7 million pregnancies and 800,000 abortions a year. Those who are against the use of EC say that it is a type of abortion. Science has proven though, that when EC prevents pregnancy, it does so before pregnancy begins. That's right, EC is not a method of abortion, but rather, it stops a possible pregnancy from happening. EC is becoming more and more available to women, but not without heavy opposition. One controversial issue is whether or not the pills should be sold over the counter. If EC could be sold over the counter, anyone could walk into a drugstore and buy a pack without a prescription. It would be as easy as buying cough medicine. Over-the-counter sales are being tested in Washington State right now. Many clinicians, women's, and human rights groups believe that there are great, potential benefits in providing EC over the counter and have recently submitted a petition to change its status with the FDA. Teens would be one of the groups most affected by this. Obtaining EC would no longer require the potential embarrassment, inconvenience, or cost of going to see a health care provider Another controversy swirls around access to emergency contraception in schools. Just last year, after many debates and strong opposition, France became the first country to offer EC in schools without parental consent. While many people in France see this as a great step in preventing unwanted pregnancies, others see it as a way of undermining the importance of prevention. Opponents of this new policy feel that it encourages young people to have sex and diminishes parental roles. In the U.S., even though parental consent is not needed, EC isn't available in schools yet. However, Congress recently rejected an amendment to federal law that would have prohibited the use of federal funds to provide EC in schools. So, it looks like there might still be hope to provide EC in U.S. school clinics, but only time will tell. Ultimately, the use of emergency contraception is left up to each woman. Whether that person is young or older, women need to be able to make responsible choices for themselves. Decisions about what happens with their bodies should be up to them. Planned Parenthood supports the right of all women to choose their methods of birth control ó including emergency contraception. Most Planned Parenthood health centers and many other local providers and women's health clinics also provide EC. If you have had unprotected sex or had a birth control method fail, and want to reduce your risk of pregnancy, call the national Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE or log on to You can also call 1-800-230-PLAN to be connected to the Planned Parenthood clinic nearest you. INCREASED CONTRACEPTIVE CHOICE CONTRIBUTES TO GREATER CONTRACEPTIVE USE ACCORDING TO 64-COUNTRY STUDY Countries in which all couples have easy access to a variety of contraceptive methods have the highest overall rates of contraceptive use, according to findings reported in "Contraceptive Method Choice in Developing Countries." The analysis, by John Ross, Karen Hardee, Elizabeth Mumford and Sherrine Eid of The Futures Group International, found that people are more likely to use any contraceptive if they have access to a range of methods. Many countries offer only a limited choice of contraceptive methods, and couples cannot easily choose the method that best suits their reproductive needs. As a result, overall contraceptive use is lower. By contrast, in countries offering all couples easy access to several methods, use of each available method increases, and overall contraceptive use is higher than in countries with fewer options. For this study, the authors compared data from national surveys on patterns of contraceptive use with levels of access to four methods of contraception'female sterilization, the IUD, the pill and the condom. They found that contraceptive prevalence is highest in countries where access to all four methods of contraception is uniformly high.. Although access to a full choice of contraceptive methods is yet to be attained in many countries, greater programmatic attention to the provision of a full range of methods could increase both access to and use of contraception. The March issue of International Family Planning Perspectives also includes:** abortion/birth rates similar (charts) * chart--private insurance don't cover contracep *chart--contraceptive up-abortion rate down important: ; http://www.guttmachepubs/archives/ abstinance only bad: