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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm 16 and entering my junior year of high school. My boyfriend, "Jonah," and I have been dating for almost a year and we would like to become sexually active, but I'm scared condoms won't cut it. I have tried talking to my mom about it, but she doesn't think I should go on birth control.

Abby, I'm just trying to keep the risk of getting pregnant as low as possible. I'm not sure my mom understands that. What should I do? I know for sure my mother will find out if I go to my doctor and talk privately about this with her. Please help me because I'm just trying to protect myself. -- PRACTICAL TEEN IN NEW YORK

DEAR PRACTICAL TEEN: You appear to be a levelheaded young woman who is trying to make mature decisions. Discussing sex with parents can be difficult -- not only for you, but also for them.

If you are willing to talk about this with your mother again, try using a magazine, a TV show or my column as a jumping-off point to start the conversation. Sometimes it may take more than one talk to feel comfortable disclosing your personal feelings and intentions.

You should be able to get confidential health services from your doctor or another health care provider. Depending upon where you live, however, parental permission may be needed. You will have to check to find out.

In terms of birth control methods, hormonal birth control is effective when used correctly. But using hormonal birth control and a condom TOGETHER offers the best protection from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

For many years, I have recommended Planned Parenthood ( for reproductive health services, which include information, contraception, testing and education about a full range of options for women, men and teens across the United States. Its services are confidential and comply with relevant laws, which may vary from state to state.

Some Planned Parenthood centers scale their charges according to income, and most accept health insurance. Your local Planned Parenthood health center can give you specific information about costs and policies. If you qualify, Medicaid or other state programs may lower the costs.

Read more in: Teens | Love & Dating | Sex & Gender | Health & Safety

DEAR ABBY: Do you think it's bad that my two girls don't see their father? I don't keep them from him. He's welcome to see them, but he is now remarried and has never asked for them. He left our household 10 years ago.

To be honest, the girls don't even talk about him anymore. Is it OK to let them go on with their lives with the family members who are in it? -- NEW MEXICO MOMMY

DEAR NEW MEXICO MOMMY: It's sad that your daughters have no relationship with their father. However, because he has shown no interest in having one with them, you have no option but to let them go on with their lives.

The question that comes to mind is, has he been supporting the girls financially? If the answer is no, you should have gotten a lawyer involved 10 years ago.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Marriage & Divorce

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