Since 1997 the federal government has invested millions of dollars in Abstinence Only Education programs which have been proven to be ineffective programs. Even though abstinence is the best option for teens not to get pregnant, most teens tend to experiment with sex at young ages. Teens naturally have a sense of curiosity about their bodies and the opposite sex, not to mention that their bodies are going through hormonal changes (puberty). After the Obama Administration created a budget for sex education programs, teen pregnancies have been declining further than with just the contraception movement. As Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported in the Los Angeles Times, “Sex education in schools has helped teens decrease teen pregnancies by 52% in states like California” (LA Times). Not all states are cooperating with teaching this new curriculum to kids, as shown by Dr. Brian Carr who has said about abstinence only programs, “…the birthrate among Texas teens is the 3rd highest in the nation (63.4 per 1,000) with the repeat teen birth rate being the 2nd highest in the nation” (Carr).
This topic is talked about in today’s times because the teen pregnancy rate has dropped drastically in the U.S., but there is still a need for it to drop it down even further. I propose that not only sex education should be taught in every state, but should also start to be taught to younger age ranges. In the US there are more teen pregnancies than in any other country. Marjorie Valbrun states, “Despite the decline, the U.S. teen birth rate is still much higher than in other developed countries, including Canada, where the rate averaged 14.1 per 1,000 in 2002-2011; Germany, where it was 8.9, and Italy, where the rate was 6.8. The US numbers are 31.3 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 in 2011” (Valbrun).
There has been a decline in the U.S. in teen pregnancies, most of which is a result of contraceptive use. The other big reason there is a drop is because of sex education programs. Advocates of Abstinence Only Education programs argue that their programs are responsible for the recent dramatic decline in teen pregnancy since 1991. As Marcia Clemmitt finds, “A study showed that improved contraceptive use, to prevent HIV/AIDS, is responsible for 86 percent of the decline in the U.S. adolescent pregnancy rate between 1995 and 2002” (Clemmitt).
In 2012, “There were 29.4 births for every 1,000 adolescent females ages 15-19, or 305,388 babies born to females in this age group” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). This is the lowest level in teen pregnancies in seven decades for the U.S. See figure below. This information does not tell the whole story in every state though. Carr has found why a state like Texas is on the opposite side of the drop, “…a survey found that a ‘quiet revolution’ was underway in Texas with abstinence-only instruction being replaced by abstinence-plus sex education programs (although abstinence-only programs continue to be the predominant approach in the state)” (Carr). Titania Kumeh writes, “Unlike in Texas, California’s schools teach comprehensive sex education (29 births per 1,000 teen girls)” (Los Angeles Times, 2013). Prevention works by teaching teens how and why to delay sex and the steps that they need to take if they become sexually active.
The program that has been shown to work is sex education. In a survey that my classmates and I conducted for the ACE Program, we found that the public has shown 71% interest for sex education to be introduced to ages 7 to 14. 93% of the surveyed believe that sex education is a need in our classrooms. Sex education is important for helping teens to understand the changes in their bodies and in their relationships before and during the teenage years. Sex education helps teens to make healthy choices about relationships and sex. There is research to prove that comprehensive sex education programs give young people the tools they need to protect themselves from negative sexual health outcomes. Within our survey we found that the people who mainly learn about sex from their friends are more likely to have sex at an earlier age, whereas if people learned from a teacher or a parent they were more likely to wait and also to use contraceptives.
Sex education should be started well before the teenage years. Starting with children, parents should have age appropriate discussions with them about love, relationships, values, and physical anatomy. It is more appropriate to be open and honest while talking to children and teens than to keep the information from them. Boys and girls should know what a penis, scrotum, and vagina are without using substitutes like calling them “wee-wee or pee-pee.” Parents should not be afraid to answer their kids’ questions about their bodies or the opposite sex. Withholding the information results in ignorance and, with something as purely natural as sexuality, there is not really a reason not to teach about it. Parents should answer their kids’ more in-depth questions when they are asked (i.e. “Where do babies come from?”) regardless of the age. If the honest answer is good enough, or the kid is a little confused but wanders off satisfied with the answer, which is great.
If children continue to ask more questions, the answers should continue to be honest and presented in a way the kid can understand. If parents make sex education an open topic with their children, the kids will feel more comfortable talking and asking questions about sex and their body changes when they turn into teens. If parents discourage talking or answering questions, teenagers will be looking for answers from their friends and the media. In our survey we found, in the filtered information, that teens are twice as likely to have unprotected sex at younger ages when taught by their friends. It is an important factor to make sure that are kids our taught properly to prevent teen pregnancies.
Our country can reduce teen pregnancies by requiring sex education programs in schools and making sure that these schools teach them. My team’s research has shown that sex education will work by teaching kids about their bodies, contraception, and making healthy choices. If sex education is started at earlier ages, parents and teens will have a better understanding towards one another and will make healthier choices. I believe that someday, if our country works toward these goals, we all can benefit from the outcomes of fewer teen pregnancies.
Dr. Brian Carr; http://lubbockonline.com/interact/blog-post/dr-brian-carr/2013- 08-02/blind-facts-sex-education-texas-public-schools. Web.
Marjorie Valbrun; Document APA Citation — See Alternate Citation Style Teen sex. (2013, June 15). CQ Researcher. Retrieved from http://0- library.cqpress.com.library.cabrillo.edu/cqresearcher/ . Web.
Marcia Clemmitt. (2010, March 26). Teen pregnancy. CQ Researcher, 20, 265- 288. Retrieved from http://0
Molly Hennessy-Fiske. The Los Angeles Times 2/1/2011. Web.
Titania Kumeh. The Los Angeles Times 2013. Web.
Advocates for Youth. http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/409-the-truth-about-abstinence-only-programs. Web.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. http://www.hhs.gov. Web.
Graph: Birth rates per 1,000 females ages 15-19, by race/ethnicity, 1990-2012. Source: Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J.(2013). Births: Preliminary data for 2012. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Web
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