New York model to fight teen pregnancy not best for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 5:32am


The thought of Hong Kong fighting teenage pregnancy by following New York's example of handing out morning-after birth control pills to high school girls as young as 14 is difficult to consider. Sex is an awkward subject for most schools and parents in our conservative society and young people are often left to find out about the finer points for themselves. But while the idea may be outrageous to a number of us, it is not so radical for New Yorkers, already used to public schooling that makes less controversial contraception like condoms freely available. The expanding pilot scheme is seen as necessary by authorities due to the high number of unwanted pregnancies and the educational, health and financial consequences.

Naturally, not all parents are pleased. Apart from those who reject it on morality grounds, some object to it being "opt-out" rather than "opt-in". Others believe it encourages premature sex, while there are those who contend it ignores the threat of sexually transmitted diseases. But while easily available contraception for high school students is frowned upon in conservative parts of the US, it is accepted in big cities. More than 7,000 New York girls between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year, with two-thirds having abortions and seven in 10 of those keeping their babies dropping out of school.

Teenage pregnancy would not seem to be as big a problem in Hong Kong. Census figures showed 166 births to women under 18 in 2010 and phone help lines receive hundreds rather than thousands of inquiries from worried teenagers each year. Welfare groups are nonetheless concerned about the prevalence of sexual misconceptions. They put them down to a lack of information from parents and teachers - a matter Hong Kong has in common with New York.

Parents often leave discussing sex to teachers, who usually advocate abstinence or adopt a clinical approach that leaves students none the wiser. Schools stockpiling contraceptives is an option, but not the best one. The wisest solution is a proper education at home and school on healthy sex practices.