However, greater public awareness of the tragedy of an unwanted teenage pregnancy, the high incidence of sexually transmitted disease, and the looming possibility of contracting AIDS have brought the issue out of the closet and into the classroom. Issuing condoms to high school students is a responsible action taken to protect the health and well being of our children in light of current social realities and contemporary public perceptions.
Critics of the condom distribution program will contend that the easy availability of condoms will encourage students to engage in sexual activity that they would otherwise avoid, as the activity gives social legitimacy to teenage sex. Critics further contend that in addition to this legitimacy is a false sense of safety when as many as 15 percents of condoms fail, and opponents suggest that the only ethical approach is to recommend and teach abstinence (Tifft, Mihok, and Willwerth). Monsignor John Woolsey of New York’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese, argues that the program amounts to a ratification of sexual promiscuity, even in the face of the social reality of New York where teenage AIDS is at 7 times the national average. Rather than encouraging sexual activity in teens, the condom programs are simply responding to a problem that already exists and is running out of control.
In addition, the fear of an exploding rate of teenage sexual activity has not come as a result of the program. When condoms were made readily available to high school students in Philadelphia, the number of students ever having intercourse dropped from 75 to 66 percent, while condom use at last intercourse rose from 37 to 50 percent (Dodd). These numbers are significant and translate to fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer abortions, and fewer students burdened with a life living with AIDS.
While there are direct benefits to the health and well being of the students, there is also the beneficial by-product of the educational opportunities that the program presents. In New York, the free condoms come as part of an AIDS education program that includes a booklet on how to use them and the opportunity to attend sex counseling (Tifft, Mihok, and Willwerth).