The United States government bet on the wrong program to cut down on teenage pregnancies and birth rates. Numerous studies show that teen pregnancies are highest in states where abstinence-only education is standard. The rates dropped in nearly all states and across all racial and ethnic groups.
Released Tuesday, a report by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that the teenage birth rate for American teenagers fell 9 percent from 2009 to 2010. The average national level is 34.3 teenage births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. This is the lowest rate in 65 years, since 1946.
Mississippi, again, has the highest rate with 55 births per 1,000 girls, while New Hampshire has the lowest at just under 16 births per 1,000 girls.
Texas Governor Rick Perry defended abstinence education in Texas, saying “it works” while statistics rate it with the third-highest teen pregnancy rates in the country.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant, while a federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence," reports Amanda Peterson Beadle for ThinkProgress.
Khadeeja Safdar, for the Huffington Post, writes, “While plenty of research confirms that living in poverty increases the changes of teen pregnancy, new information suggests that when low-income teenagers live in places with high income inequality the risk of pregnancy is even higher.”
It is no coincidence, then, when we learned from a 2011 Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) report that the U.S. ranks first among the developed countries when it comes to income inequality and fourth across the entire world.
The U.S. also ranks first among developed nations in rates of both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. While the U.S. government funded abstinence-only sex education, research showed that an increasing emphasis on abstinence education is positively correlated with teenage pregnancy and birth rates, claim Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall and David W. Hall of The University of Georgia.
Data, such as socioeconomic status, teen education attainment, ethnic composition of the teen population and availability of Medicaid waivers for family planning services, shows clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy, and may very well actually be contributing to the high percentage of pregnancy rates in the U.S. The two researchers found that the more strongly abstinence education is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rates.
"This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior," said David Hall, co-author and assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College. "It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries."
"Because correlation does not imply causation, our analysis cannot demonstrate that emphasizing abstinence causes increased teen pregnancy. However, if abstinence education reduced teen pregnancy as proponents claim, the correlation would be in the opposite direction," said Stanger-Hall.
Abstinence-taught teenagers abstain from or delay sex in fear of God's wrath more than sexually transmitted diseases and are less likely to use contraception the first time compared to those who’ve received comprehensive sex education in schools.
In the end, curious and hormonal teenagers will explore and experiment with their bodies. They are influenced by sex-crazed movies, music, magazines and advertisements.
Perhaps the best decision is to not avoid the subject or just pray that it will all work out for the best.