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by Abigail Van Buren

Lack of Communication Leads to Teen's Tragic Pregnancy

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter from Carol Montgomery of Tucson, who wrote about a teen-ager who was afraid to tell her parents she was pregnant, so she secretly gave birth to a boy and strangled it. Now she is charged with first-degree murder. Ms. Montgomery uses this story to support her view that condoms should be distributed in high schools, thus making sex "safe."

Abby, her argument is fundamentally flawed. She assumes that the girl and her boyfriend, having access to condoms, would have used them. Last time I looked, the pregnancy rate among unwed teen-agers is continuing to rise in spite of condom distribution. Obviously, some teen-agers armed with information and condoms are using neither.

The real tragedy of Ms. Montgomery's example is that the parents were unaware of what was happening with their daughter and also unable or unwilling to communicate their love to her.

When I was a teen-ager, my parents lovingly told me the facts about sex and expressed their hope that I'd wait until marriage. However, they also made it clear that if I chose to become sexually active and became pregnant, I would always have a home with them and they would love me, no matter what. Their strategy worked, and in spite of having raging hormones, I waited.

Instead of assuming that teen-agers have no self-control and handing them condoms, perhaps we should encourage parents to talk with their kids, and decide how sexuality should be handled.

I can think of no better gift to give my children than keeping the lines of communication open so that, even in the darkest of times, they can come to me and we can figure out a solution together. -- SARAH V. BAUMANN, FORT WORTH, TEXAS

DEAR SARAH: Your common sense and compassion rate an A-plus. However, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a not-for-profit corporation for reproductive health research, the pregnancy rate among sexually experienced teen-agers ages 15 to 19 has declined 19 percent in the last two decades -- an encouraging indication that sexually experienced adolescents are using contraceptives more effectively than did their counterparts in the past.

Read on for what two students have to say regarding this issue:

DEAR ABBY: May I add to the sex education debate? The more valid information young people have, the better their choices. Waiting until "the wedding night" to have the facts-of-life chat is too late, and so is 16!

We know that the only kind of diet that really works is one that tells what we CAN eat, not what we CANNOT eat. That also holds true for sex education. Being told what we shouldn't do (i.e., don't date, don't have sex) rarely prevents kids from becoming sexually active.

Parents can share their values and beliefs, and let their children know that they are trusted to make wise choices in tough situations. Sign me ... ALSO FROM TUCSON, AT THE U. OF ARIZONA