- In Texas, 220 teen females aged 15 to 19 become pregnant every single day (1)
- Texas has the second worst teen birth rate among 15- to 19-year-old females, ranking 49th out of 50 states. Only Mississippi has a higher teen birth rate. (2)
- Texas ranks last in the decline in teen birth rates among 15-to 17-year-olds. Between 1991 and 1998, the teen birth rate in this age group dropped by more than 21 percent in the United States as a whole; Texas' rate declined by only 10 percent (3)
- Texas has an extremely high number of reported STD cases — accounting for about 10 percent of all reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the country (4)
—Presidential candidate George W. Bush, November 1999
Since Mr. Bush assumed the Presidency, abstinence-only programs have received in excess of one billion dollars in funding. A Maclean’s magazine article notes that while the US teen pregnancy rate had, at one point, declined and then “flattened out”, in recent years it is been on the rise. The Toronto Star recently reported that the US has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. In theory, abstinence appears to be perfect. But as is quite frequently the case, what sounds good in theory, often fails miserably when put into practice. One cannot help but wonder that if sex education in the US were to be more broad-based, whether both the rate of teen pregnancy and number of cases of STD’s would be reduced.
Fortunately, Canada has taken a more proactive position with regard to sex education by establishing the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education. The guidelines recommend that “Sexual health education should include important topics such as developmental changes (i.e. puberty), rewarding interpersonal relationships, communication, setting of personal limits, media, stereotypes, prevention of STI/HIV, effective contraception, sexual assault/coercion, gender-role expectations, and sexual orientation”. Does this not make more sense than abstinence-only education? I certainly think so.
(1)The Alan Guttmacher Institute. Teenage Pregnancy: Overall Trends and State-by-State Information. New York, New York: 1999
(2), (3) Ventura SJ, Curtin SC, Mathews TJ. Variations in teenage birth rates, 1991-1998: national and state trends. National Vital Statistics Reports 2000; 48(6):1-16.
(4) Division of STD Prevention. 1999 Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2000.