(March 2008) Unwanted pregnancy is often the result of a problematic attitude arising from a lack of understanding in relation to one's own body and methods of contraception.
However, it can also be the direct consequence of a failing motivation to take responsibility for oneself. Vienna's Museum of Contraception and Abortion is the first and only institution of its kind in the world. It is dedicated to addressing this common lack of knowledge and seeks to provide information to visitors in a form that can be easily understood and accepted.
According to Christian Fiala, gynecologist and founder of the museum, young people are too often left alone to deal with this problem.
"The problem is widespread. There remain far too many young people who are confronted with unwanted pregnancies. The only way out is prevention! I therefore consider it society's obligation to provide timely answers to questions that arise as sexuality becomes imminent. This includes the question: How do we best protect ourselves from the unintended consequences of our sexuality?"
Fiala considers comparable categories for which society acknowledges and accepts responsibility, such as traffic safety. The same attitude should prevail in relation to sexuality. Especially young people need and deserve effective advice and attention. It is precisely along these lines that the Museum of Contraception and Abortion provides assistance:
"This was the actual motivation behind founding the museum: How could we make sexuality more understandable to young people, without being patronizing. One year after the museum's opening, we can see that our pedagogical concept is being well received. Young people who visit the museum learn what fertility means and how an unwanted pregnancy can be prevented."
"Of course, sex education involves more than protecting against unwanted pregnancy," says Petra Milhoffer, Professor for Pedagogical and Social Sciences at the University Bremen: "Effective sex education is a form of social education as well. As such, it provides a basis for social competence and includes the readiness to take responsibility for contraception. Learning involves more than passive acceptance of what others maintain. The query- and research oriented approach of the museum encourages individual questions and an active search for solutions. Candid and graphic presentation of information is crucial."
According to Fiala, the situation in Austria today has improved compared to conditions several years ago. There are now 300 state subsidized family planning centers. The project 'Love Talks' is a state-wide, federal initiative to provide education and disseminate information in schools. However, as a teacher of sex education who initiated the 'Love Talks' initiative, Brigitte Cizek maintains that the museum has a very special role to play given that there is a shortage of counselling centers specifically available to young people. This is precisely what the museum provides.
"More resources must be made available to prevent young people from simply stumbling into their sexuality. When I speak with parents, the most prevalent question concerns the appropriate age for initial sex education. I like to respond by asking parents their opinion. On the one hand, they rightly reply that the ideal time would be in response to initial questions. On the other hand, they would prefer to postpone the moment because they fear that enlightenment might result in premature sexual contact: On the contrary, studies show that the absence of sex education is directly related to premature sexual contact!"
This confirms Anna Pichler’s observations. She has guided over 2000 students through the museum since its opening and has received a very positive response. "Sex education is not about the age at which our children should be introduced to sexuality. Rather, it is about when to acknowledge and respect their individual sexual identity." Preparing for sexual responsibility and a secure knowledge of contraception go hand in hand.
The above text summarizes a press conference that took place on March 12, 2008 as organized by Peter Kielenhofer.
Further information regarding participants and their projects:
Dr. rer. Pol. Petra Milhoffer, Professor for Social Sciences and Educational Studies at the University of Bremen Literature: Petra Milhoffer: How do they feel, what do they want…. An empirical study on girls and boys on their way to puberty. Weinheim: Juventa, 2000, ISBN-10: 3779913674 Milhoffer, P.: Self-perception, Sexual Knowledge and Body-feeling in Girls and Boys aged 8-14, in: BZgA (ed.): Scientific Foundations, Part 1 - Children (series: Research and Practice in Sex Education and Family Planning, Vol. 13.1), Cologne, German Version, ISBN 3933191173; Download: http://www.sexualaufklaerung.de/index.php?docid=338 Petra Milhoffer a.o. (BZgA ed): Sexual education - going down well. A guide for schools and social education programs for children aged 8-14. (Cologne, Oct.1999). ISBN: 3-933191-25-4 Download: www.sexualaufklaerung.de/index.php?docid=342