Don’t short-change students on sex education – By Brandie Sellers
I am tired of hearing there is no money on federal or state levels for things like education, health care and birth control. There’s plenty of money to carry out a ten-year assassination campaign on Osama Bin Laden, a man who’s death I’m not sure is impacting my life. And there’s money to subsidize crops like corn and soy, the growers of which are making money hand-over-fist. But not enough for children.
I am outraged by threatened funding cuts to Planned Parenthood in the midst of sky-high teen pregnancy rates. Outraged by the $50 million federal that will be spent this year on abstinence-based sex education, which has been proved by our government’s own studies to be ineffective. Outraged by politicians dictating morality and ignoring the reality of so many teenagers’ lives.
Every one-and-a-half hours a 16-year-old gives birth in the state of Texas. Every 52 minutes a 17-year-old gives birth. Unwanted pregnancy costs the state of Texas $1.3 million every year. Texas has the highest rate of repeat births to teens of any state in the nation, and the third highest teen pregnancy rate overall. Children born to teenage mothers are more likely to end up in prison, less likely to attend college. Not surprisingly, they are also more likely to end up being teen parents themselves.
These teenagers who are having babies have grown up under abstinence-based education programs that gained popularity in the 1990s. In 2009 Texas received the most federal money for abstinence-based education.
We need to wake up. The answer is not to just tell teenagers not to have sex. “Just Say No” didn’t work for drugs, and it doesn’t work for sexual education, either. As parents we are charged with passing on our values to our children. But just because we tell and hopefully demonstrate what we believe is appropriate doesn’t mean our teens are going to follow our advice. You were a teenager, right? Many adult pastors, politicians and regular every day married people have a hard time remaining chaste these days, yet we expect teenagers with raging hormones and still-developing prefrontal cortices all to remain virgins.
Teenagers are their own people. They are going to make choices for themselves that we may not agree with. In those moments they need to have all the facts. We should tell them to call for a ride if they choose to drink, and we should tell them to use condoms if they choose to have sex.
A comprehensive sex-education program does teach that abstinence is the only way to completely avoid pregnancy and STD’s. But it also includes information on how to be as safe as possible if teens do decide to have sex. It gives them all the facts they need. And they need them because 52 percent of high school students are having sex.
I have a friend who volunteered as a teen for Planned Parenthood, traveling around doing skits about safe sex. She remained a virgin even though she had plethora of information about safe sex at her fingertips and access to all the condoms a girl could need. The Guttmacher Institute published a study this year saying that teens who are taught a comprehensive sex education program are not confused when taught about both abstinence and birth control. They are not more likely to have sex than teens who are taught abstinence-only education. They are just more informed.
We need to stand up for our children, educate them instead of ignoring them, tell them and demonstrate our own values in our own homes, and show them with our tax dollars that the comprehensive education of their minds and bodies is of the utmost importance.