Although overall teen pregnancy rates are down, there is a large disparity in rates between states. Southern states are often the highest, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why would some Southern pregnancy rates be higher? Some health advocates believe it’s because sex ed in Southern states often stresses abstinence-only instead of being comprehensive sex ed programs.
“Whatever the reason, the regional disparities are stark. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, for instance, 2008 birth rates were less than 25 per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19, CDC found. In the same year, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas all had rates topping 60 per 1,000 teens.”
“Mississippi had the country’s highest rate (65.7), CDC says, while New Hampshire had the lowest (19.8).”
“Leslie Kantor, national education director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the report ‘makes it crystal clear that the teen birthrate is lower in states that provide students with comprehensive, evidence-based sex education. ’ ”
” ‘The report demonstrates that the surest way to reduce teenage pregnancy is to provide young people with comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, and doing so is especially urgent for African-Americans and Latino teens, who are getting pregnant more frequently than other young people,’ “
The article says a report from the Guttmacher Institute, a women’s reproductive health groups, agrees with this assessment. All five states with the highest teen birth rates require that abstinence be stressed when taught as part of sex or HIV education. Of the four states with the lowest birth rates, none required abstinence be stressed to students.
The federal government announced earlier this month that it will grant $375 million to 28 sex ed programs that have been proven to lower pregnancy rates and move away from abstinence-only type education plans.
“Beginning this school year, a five-year, $375 million grant is being divided among 28 programs that have been proven to lower the pregnancy rate among participants, no matter their focus. Many programs distribute condoms, but about half also aim to boost teens’ academics, get them involved in extracurricular activities and even improve their parents’ job status.”
“Advocates believe this “above the waist” approach gives kids the tools to help them succeed in school and make better life decisions, especially about sex.”
” ‘There’s a growing realization that we have to talk to young people about relationships. It’s not just body parts,’ said Bill Albert, the chief program officer for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. ‘It’s saying, ‘What are your goals?’ and helping young people understand what they need to do to get there.’ ”
“That theory, which has become popular in the safe-sex community in the past decade, will replace the abstinence-centered talks funded by a Republican Congress in the late 1990s and later under President George W. Bush to the tune of $1.5 billion.”
“Critics contend there is little proof those programs lowered the teen pregnancy rate or that participants were less likely to have sex. In 2007, Mathematica Policy Research, an independent government contractor, released a study showing students in abstinence-only programs are no more likely to abstain from sex, delay having sex or have fewer partners than students who received no sex education at all.”
So what do you think? Do you think there is a link between higher pregnancy rates in the South and abstinence-only programs? Which type of sex education programs do think work best? What do you think of new approaches such as stressing goals for the future and how to get there or involving kids in extracurricular activities so there aren’t empty afternoon to just have sex?
Is this a fair rap for the South?