For years, we have heard Republicans insist that the only true way to prevent teen pregnancy, abortion, and STDs is to destroy comprehensive sex education programs and replace them with religious based abstinence-only programs. In many red states, particularly in the South, conservatives have dismantled proper sex ed and have instituted abstinence-only programs that have failed time and time again. Now, a new report in California shows that the liberal state’s own comprehensive sex ed program has reduced teen pregnancy rates to a 20 year low.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
In 2011, the birthrate for teenage girls in California dropped to its lowest level since 1991, a state report released Wednesday announced.
Twenty-eight children were born in the state for every 1,000 teenage girls, a sharp decline from 1991 when the rate peaked at 70.9 births for every 1,000 teenage girls.
Public health experts say state laws are responsible for the decline because they require public schools that offer sex education classes to provide scientifically reliable instructions on how contraceptives work along with information about abstinence.
You can read the full report here.
Conservative states could learn a lot from California’s success. Studies consistently show that abstinence doesn’t work. In fact, nine of the ten states with the highest teen pregnancy rates are located in the Bible belt. Texas is one of those states with abstinence-only programs, and one study already shows that most women in the state say that they don’t have enough access to contraception. So when women get an unwanted pregnancy, the only recourse they can turn to is abortion. The higher the number of unwanted pregnancies, the more abortions are likely to increase. But when women have access to lower cost or free birth control, the rate of unwanted pregnancies and abortion .
Teaching abstinence-only prevents teens from knowing how to protect themselves when they choose to have sex, and make no mistake, teens are going to have sex no matter what you teach them. This fact combined with all the studies showing that abstinence-only fails has led one state to ban such programs. Because abstinence-only programs don’t work, the state of Illinois has elected to ban the program in favor of comprehensive programs that are far more effective.
If conservative states really want to decrease abortion and STDs, teaching proper sex ed and providing better access to contraception would be the place to start. Unfortunately, Republicans refuse to do so because they are under the thumbs of religious extremists who apparently see pregnancy as a punishment for those who have sex before marriage and as a way to subjugate young women to child rearing instead of doing things like pursuing a career. In other words, conservatives WANT teen girls to get pregnant. Because women are only good for having babies and cooking breakfast, right GOP?
Unfortunately, higher rates of teen pregnancy also increases the number of welfare recipients. Since teen moms are usually low-income, they are forced to rely on state and federal government to get by, which is ironic considering how much conservatives whine about how too many people are on welfare, which is also ironic considering how red states rely on welfare more than blue states as a whole. More unwanted pregnancies equal more welfare recipients and more abortions. You would think conservatives would make the connection and try something that actually works to solve the problem, but no, they just double down because they refuse to believe they are wrong.
Abstinence-only programs push a conservative fantasy that all we have to do is scare young people from having sex and they just won’t do it. That kind of thinking is incredibly ignorant of the facts, and the birds and the bees. Sheer curiosity and raging hormones are enough to drive teens to have sex. Unless parents lock their kids away from the outside world, teens are going to have sex. We might as well make sure they know how to protect themselves when they do, and comprehensive sex education is the way to go. This report from California should embarrass red states and force the people who live in them to re-examine what their elected officials have been claiming all these years about abstinence-only programs.