CBS’ Medical Correspondent Gives Mixed Messages on Teen Sex

Teenagers don't need to ask their friends anymore about sex. Now they can just turn to CBS' medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

On Jan. 6, Dr. Ashton met with a group of teenage girls on CBS' "Early Show" to advertise her new book "The Body Scoop for Girls" - a book that anchor Maggie Rodriguez said "parents of daughters really appreciate." But most parents that watched this segment were probably more shocked than appreciative.

When Dr. Ashton met with the group of girls, she asked them, "Did any of your parents ever come to you guys and say, ‘We expect that you don't have sex until fill-in-the-blank age' .... 18, 19, 20, whatever?"

Not a single girl said yes, but 14-year-old Mercy Baez spoke up and said, "In this generation, ya know, almost every teenager already has sex by seventh to eighth grade ... and so, it's like, if you haven't had sex already, then you're the weird one and you stand out because you haven't."

If Ashton had any reaction to that statement, it was edited from the tape. Instead, she answered this question from 13-year-old Pam Segall: "What type of contraception do you think is the most effective?"

"Usually, if not always, I tell my patients that they should use two forms of contraception for birth control," Dr. Ashton began. "Something like the pill, which is highly effective, and condoms all the time. And what about the birth control pill? What do you guys know about that? ... Did you know the pill could be one of the medications used to treat acne?"

So a medical professional told 13-year-old and 14-year-old girls on national television that the pill is not only "highly effective" (which, translated into teen language equates to "I will never get pregnant") but it can also fight acne. What's to lose?

But after the panel discussion, when questioned by anchor Maggie Rodriguez, Ashton sang a different tune, and talked about the importance of discussing abstinence.

"I'm sure that some of the mothers, like me," Rodriguez said, "their jaw's dropped when that one girl Mercy said that most girls are having sex in seventh and eighth grade. We both have daughters. Should I just accept this as a fact or continue to be in denial that my kid's not going to be one of them?"

"Well, you shouldn't accept it,"  Ashton conceded, "and we should try everything we can to change it ... But, statistically, one out of five 15 year olds has had vaginal intercourse ... And the name of the game here is getting out ahead of the ball before that happens so that you're educating your daughter about why they want to delay premature sexual behavior. It's important for their health. It's important for their social and psychological well-being. And they need to hear that. They need to hear that from their parents, and they need to hear that from a doctor."

Let's hope the girls on the panel did hear that from Dr. Ashton and that in the interests of time it was thoughtlessly edited from the segment. But for thousands of other girls watching it on television, all they heard was: "The pill's a sure bet and it makes you look great, too."

Tomorrow Dr. Ashton will be meeting with the mothers of these teens to hear "their thoughts about my chat with their daughters." That should prove to be just as interesting.