Category Archives: Sexual Health

Unplanned Pregnancy & Domestic Violence: Exploring the Connection

With each passing month I work at the FPA, I gain new knowledge of and insights into the lives of women and teen girls. My learning for this month is related to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. I am not a stranger to these two facts of life. In my previous work experience, I had many opportunities to work closely with the people and agencies dealing directly with women impacted by both.

I recently met with FPA staff member Kini Tinkham who serves as Program Director of Project Connect. And, as often happens, I learned way more than I expected to.

Project Connect is an FPA-led collaboration of providers and advocates from domestic violence and sexual assault organizations, family planning and school-based health centers, and minority organizations. Now in its third year, Project Connect continues to focus on the goal of creating a coordinated community response to domestic violence and sexual assault, including reproductive coercion.

Here’s where my learning curve banked steeply upward. Reproductive coercion? I knew what the words meant but I didn’t have a full understanding of the scope of the problem and its impact on women’s health. This seemed like a topic worth sharing with our readers. I hope you agree. Continue reading

Meet Sarah — My Teen Pregnancy Prevention Hero

Last week, I got to spend some time with Sarah Donlin. You probably don’t know Sarah, so let me tell you about her.

Sarah is the Program Coordinator for the Young Parent Program(YPP) of Youth Alternatives Ingraham. Known locally as 22 Park Avenue, YPP is a transitional living program for pregnant and parenting teens and young adults. Sarah’s office overlooks the entryway of the YPP building on the busy corner of Park Avenue and High Street in downtown Portland.  Sarah has the daunting task of providing support, supervision and programming for YPP residents and it’s clear, as she talks, that she cares deeply about them.

Sex ed has always been an essential program component of YPP.  For years, it was done by outside organizations, until budget cuts meant those organizations could no longer come to 22 Park Avenue to provide the services.

Sarah then found herself trying to offer education that she didn’t really feel qualified to provide. She remembers thinking, “I’m not trained in this. I could talk about using condoms but I didn’t know enough about all the birth control methods and I didn’t want to give them misinformation.”

But Sarah was determined to find a way. After some searching, Sarah connected with the FPA’s Teen Pregnancy Program and she now has the knowledge and skills needed to provide sex ed for 22 Park Avenue residents.  Here’s how it happened. Continue reading

Tackling Teen Pregnancy in Rockland Maine

Author’s Note: From time to time, On the Front Lines features an FPA program. This week — the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative in Rockland.

Like many Maine communities, Rockland has a teen pregnancy rate higher than the state average. However, while several towns have seen their teen pregnancy rates decrease sharply in the past decade, Rockland is one of the few towns whose rate has remained consistently high — at more than double the state average.

Enter Keegan Ross.

A recent graduate of Rockland District High School, Keegan is a natural leader — he served as Senior Class President and Student Senate Treasurer. Even as a busy senior, Keegan still felt a need to take on another role — to increase awareness about his hometown’s high teen pregnancy rate.

Together with the Student Senate and School Nurse, Ilmi Carter, Keegan organized and spearheaded a week-long project to bring teen pregnancy prevention awareness and education to his fellow students.The awareness week included lunchtime education sessions, an after-school screening of the movie Juno followed by a discussion about teen pregnancy, and a student survey.

Over 300 students completed the survey and the results are really interesting. Sixty-six percent of students say they feel comfortable talking with their parents about sexual health issues. And 77% of students say there is a need for family planning services at their school.

Keegan’s project at Rockland District High School is just one part of a much bigger story. Continue reading

Anti-Choice Protesting as a Career Path

Are you feeling ready for a career change but you’re just not sure what your next move might be?

Allow me to assist you.

Last week a colleague pointed out this little gem on the 40 Days for Life website. Apparently you can get credit at “Pro-Life University” for protesting in front of the FPA offices in Augusta.

University credit?

This is just the sort of tidbit that fuels my imagination and I’m wondering what classes at a “pro-life university” might entail.

Here’s a list I came up with — Continue reading

Paying for Birth Control — What’s Your Story?

Have you heard the good news? Beginning August 1, 2012, the full range of birth control methods will be available to tens of millions of U.S. women with no co-pays or deductibles.

How wonderful is that?!

Along with several other preventive services for women, the new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services require health insurance plans to cover contraception and contraceptive counseling. This marks true progress — viewing birth control as preventive health care and making sure women have access to services that impact their health and the health of their families.

This is good news.

But what’s even better is that Maine happens to be more than a decade ahead of Washington, D.C. on this one. In 1999, the Maine Legislature passed what is known as an Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraception Coverage (EPICC) law. This law basically says that any insurance company doing business in Maine, that offers a prescription benefit, has to include contraception coverage.

Go Maine!

This is all terrific news for women with health insurance coverage. But what about the millions of women and teens who don’t have any form of health insurance?  Women like Rachel Fey, who wrote about it in this  Pregnant Pause blog post.

Rachel’s story is not unique Continue reading

When Parents and Teens Can’t Talk About Sex

After reading last week’s post of On the Front Lines, a colleague asked me a couple of really good, pointed questions.

Wasn’t I putting a lot of pressure on parents — telling them they had to get comfortable talking about sex with their teens? What about those times when parents and teens just can’t talk about sexuality, for whatever reason?

He raised such good points, I decided they were worthy of further discussion. Continue reading

Talking with Teens about Sex– A Guide for Parents

Last week I wrote about an article by former U.S. Attorney General, Jocelyn Elders, and what she called the “hormonal imperative” teenagers have when it comes to exploring their sexuality. I pointed out the fine line FPA staff have to walk when working with teens on issues of sexuality and sexual activity.

The reality is, our staff have all been trained on how to talk with young people about sexual health issues and they get regular, ongoing training. Basically, FPA clinical staff are experts in the field of sexual health and they are about as comfortable talking about sexuality as a person can get.  They get lots and lots of practice, each and every workday.

While we have these discussions with teens here at the FPA every day, we know that some of the most important conversations about sexuality happen in the home, between parents and their teens.

The late Sol Gordon, PhD was a clinical psychologist, educator and widely-respected sexuality educator, who wrote several books on the subject.  In this essay, Gordon opens with the following scenario — Continue reading

“The Hormonal Imperative” and Sexuality Education

I just read a wonderful article about teen sexual health, written by former U.S. Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders.  In the piece, Dr. Elders discusses adolescent development and makes a case for universal access to contraceptive care for teens and age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education for children of all ages.

Early in the article, Dr. Elders makes a bold statement.  She says, “efforts to prevent teens from having sex have been largely unsuccessful in stemming sexual activity because teenagers have a hormonal imperative to explore their sexuality.” (emphasis mine)

Whoa! I’ve never heard anyone put it quite so bluntly — hormonal imperative indeed.  But Dr. Elders doesn’t stop there; she continues her no-nonsense lesson in adolescent development with the following comments.

Continue reading