On 30 June 2006, the Australian Family Association was privileged to host Dr Hanna Klaus, who was visiting from Washington DC and teaching her course at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. Her address was well received and one hopes her pro-life message of hope will be carried throughout the country.
Following the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, acknowledged as the next biggest victory for the anti-life, pro-death movement following the circulation of the Pill in the 1960s, pro-lifers were devastated, not knowing what to do.
A soft-spoken gynaecologist and member of the Medical Missionary Sisters, Dr Hanna Klaus has chosen to adopt a different approach to the problem, addressing the issue of unplanned pregnancies at its very heart.
Dr Klaus believes that the prevailing public perception is that abortion is not murder, but merely the removal of a "blob of tissues or cells". After decades of so-called sexual liberation, she finds teenagers who have attended the usual pro-contraception sex education classes provided by schools are unaware of the full potential and consequences of their sexuality and its inherent fertility.
The natural consequences of this blasé attitude have been that teenagers embark on sexually active premarital relations earlier than ever. Apart from some falling pregnant or contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI), the effects of this have been far greater, including many young people being hurt emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.
Using her vast experience in dealing with teen mothers and her gynaecological knowledge, Dr Klaus set about creating a program that would enlighten teenagers as to their true ability to become parents and how they ought view their sexuality.
This innovative program, known as Teen STAR, educates adolescents about their fertility, placing specific emphasis on the Natural Family Planning method as developed by Drs John and Evelyn Billings.
The program derives its name from its target audience, teenagers from all walks of life - Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility. Dr Klaus designed the program to help empower young people by giving them a personal understanding and experience of fertility through familiarity with fertile symptoms as well as "concrete ways of responding to the corresponding emotional changes and pressures" they face.
Dr Klaus says that teenagers deserve more than a fire and brimstone message of premarital sex leading to unplanned pregnancies and STIs. If they don't understand their sexuality, neither will telling them to "save themselves for marriage" be successful in many if not the majority of cases. "Neither the provision of contraception nor the exhortation to preserve chastity serves adolescents' need to integrate their now-present biological capacity to procreate into their operational self-concepts," she believes.
She insists that the Teen STAR program is not merely a way to teach teenagers how to avoid pregnancy. The statistics for the program corroborate this claim with over 90 percent of female and male virgins remaining abstinent while 30-65 percent of sexually active students stopped engaging in premarital sex during the year-long Teen STAR program.
This indicates that teenagers are ready to respond maturely when presented with appropriate content. They do not need sexually explicit information forced down their throats to realise that their sexual activity has not only physical, but emotional and psychological impacts on themselves and those with whom they associate.
The program is composed of two different curricula: one for males and one for females. A large component of the program is experiential learning which helps the participants to develop a closer understanding of their body's fertility patterns and connects the experience of constant fertility of the male and the cyclic fertility of the female with the emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual aspects of human sexuality.
Behavioural outcomes are monitored and have uniformly shown a cessation of previously begun sexual activity by one- to two-thirds of participants with a significantly lower rate of transition from virgin to non-virgin status when compared with not only the general population but with comparison schools.
Dr Klaus' program has demonstrated that it is possible not only to promote virginity successfully as a viable option for teenagers, but also to encourage sexually active teenagers to return to a chaste lifestyle.
The Teen STAR program has enjoyed considerable success in the United States since it was introduced, but it is still struggling to receive funding for presentations in schools as a positive alternative to the liberal and immoral sex education courses which treat sex as a hobby or recreation rather than as a sacred gift from God to be enjoyed in the context of marriage.
Similarly, in Australia, organisations such as Family Planning and Shine (South Australia) are fighting to ensure sex education in schools contains explicit anatomical information and that these courses address issues such as "gender stereotyping", contraception, abortion and homosexuality, all presented to young teenagers with a heavy anti-family, anti-marriage bias.
The Teen STAR program is a potent alternative to having impressionable minds assailed by harm minimisation propaganda. We need to ensure that Teen STAR and similar programs are more widely used with youth groups, at church levels and, ultimately, in every school.
Jacinta Cummins is a journalist working with the National Civic Council.