As a Montana-licensed, board-certified ob-gyn who has been practicing for 20 years, I read with interest the coverage of Dr. Miriam Grossman’s visit to Helena. Dr. Grossman is a psychiatrist, not a specialist in the field of women’s reproductive health. The medical information she presented regarding the “vulnerability” of adolescents’ cervical tissue was incomplete. The conclusions she drew were misleading at best. In fact, her opinions regarding prevention of sexual disease and teen pregnancy are simply not based on scientific evidence.
On Wednesday, Dr. Grossman repeated her oft-stated phrase that “when sexual freedom reigns, sexual health suffers.” This psychiatrist ignores the multiple studies published in well respected, peer reviewed, medical journals which have shown that comprehensive sex education programs do not lead to increased rates of sexual initiation, do not lead to a drop in the age at which teens initiate sexual activity, and do not increase the number of sexual partners a teenager will have. In fact, comprehensive sex education has been positively linked to reductions in number of sexual partners, frequency of sex and incidence of unprotected sex. Rigorous studies have proven the connection between comprehensive sex education and lower rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among teens.
As the medical director for Planned Parenthood of Montana, I am personally and professionally committed to educating young people about their bodies, their responsibilities and their future. I have seen too many pregnant 12-year-old girls during my career. Their situations are heartbreaking. Sexual education needs to start early. It must be accessible, in an age-appropriate manner, through trusted adults in our children’s lives, including parents, teachers and clergy. The Helena health curriculum, in its entirety, establishes common-sense standards to help our children grow into responsible, informed and healthy adults.
Dr. Julie Danaher