High Teen Birth Rates: The Sex Education Controversy Solved
High teen birth rates are a rapidly expanding epidemic in the United States of America. According to Napier, rates of teen pregnancy in the states are at a historic high (4). Out of numerous developed countries with complete statistics, the U.S. has the highest teen birth rate by far. The lowering of these high rates is crucial for the wellbeing of the people as well as the country. Along with the mental, physical, and social setbacks that teenage pregnancy causes, it also affects the country’s economy as a whole by costing taxpayers an estimated 9.4 billion dollars per year in lost earnings from an increased number of high school and college drop-outs (Romero et al. 1). If these rates continue to be so dangerously high, teenagers with children will keep experiencing numerous types of setbacks, and the economy will continue to dwindle at an alarming rate. While sex education classes have been put into effect in many schools to help lower these rates, there is still a heated argument between abstinence only versus comprehensive educational techniques. Although high teen birth rates in the United States are a growing epidemic, these rates can be reduced by teaching abstinence only and implementing comprehensive education.
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In regards of effectiveness, studies have shown that comprehensive sex education has a more positive impact on lowering teen birth rates in America. For instance, one team of researchers set out to prove the effectiveness of comprehensive sex education by taking teen birth rate statistics from many schools and then selecting a comprehensive curriculum program that they described as “evidence based, theory-driven, and endorsed by the Office of Adolescent Health as an effective program for reducing sexual risk behaviors” to apply (Huelskamp 5). After implementing this program into the classrooms, results showed that comprehensive sex education did effectively reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and increased condom use among the participants who said that they were already sexually active (Huelskamp 5). This study proves that comprehensive curriculum is exceptionally helpful in lowering teen birth rates. With the data gathered from this experiment, it is very clear that comprehensive sexual education is proven to be incredibly effective.
Abstinence education has been shown to be less effective at lowering teen birth rates in the United States. To prove this, a team of researchers preformed a study to test the overall successfulness of abstinence education in schools all across the United States of America. After the study was over, the research team used the collected data to make a conclusion that “the incidence of teenage pregnancies and births remain positively correlated with the degree of abstinence education across states: The more strongly abstinence is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rate” (Stanger-Hall and Hall 26). The data from this study clearly states that abstinence education is not successful. Overall, studies have proven that abstinence education is ineffective and that comprehensive education would be the more suitable approach to the issue in terms of effectiveness.
In terms of fast results, abstinence only education has been proven to lower birth rates more quickly than comprehensive teaching. An example of this is Elayne Bennett’s Best Friends abstinence based program that was implemented in Washington, D.C. This program is credited with slashing rates of teenage pregnancy from a high twenty percent to one percent over the time span of just one year (Napier 5). Dropping teen pregnancy rates by nineteen percent over a time span as short as one year proves that abstinence education programs work quickly. In another example, Napier states that Teen Aid, a West Coast abstinence program, cut the number of teen pregnancies in the San Marcos, California, school district from nearly 150 a year to just twenty (5). This program also worked very rapidly at dropping high birth rates by 130 teen girls per year. These abstinence programs’ speedy successes prove that abstinence is the faster solution to reducing teenage birth rates in the United States.
Comprehensive sex education does not show progressive results in lowering teen birth rates as quickly. An important case of this is found at Crescent High School located in South Carolina. During the first three years after deciding to implement comprehensive sexual education into the county’s school system, teenage birthrates in the district stayed steady with an average of nineteen teenage births per one year (Sullivan 17). In this case, comprehensive teaching had no effect on lowering birth rates for three years. These statistics show that comprehensive education takes a lengthier amount of time to actually make an impact on high teen birth rates. In terms of fast results, abstinence only education makes significantly more progress lowering rates in a shorter amount of time.
In terms of information accuracy, comprehensive sexual education curriculum has been proven to provide more accurate information about sexual behaviors in order to reduce teen birth rates. Comprehensive sex education provides accurate information about contraceptives, birth control, unintended pregnancies, and many other things that are associated with sexual behaviors. According to Blythe, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, “comprehensive sexuality education provides age-appropriate, medically accurate discussion and information for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies” (2). When students are taught about these types of accurate information associated with sexual activities, it leads to lower teen pregnancy rates.
Abstinence education curriculum provides misleading and inaccurate information to teens, which leads to higher birth rates. A significant example of this comes from a study conducted and released in 2004 by Henry Waxman. This formal study found out that “over 80 percent of abstinence only curricula supported by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) contained false, misleading, or distorted information about abortion, contraception, and gender roles, and routinely presented religious beliefs as scientific fact (Bruggink 2). With false curriculum and the use of religion as facts, abstinence only programs are proven to be misleading and have a negative effect on lowering teen birth rates. Bruggink states that discouraging premarital sex through fear and false information does not reduce teen pregnancy, and even goes as far as calling the curricula “dangerous” for teenagers to be learning (5). In terms of providing students with accurate information in order to reduce teen birth rates, comprehensive sex education curriculum is the much more thorough, educational, and accurate solution to the problem.
Based on all of these findings, implementing comprehensive sex education in schools is the better solution to lowering teen birth rates in America. Numerous amounts of examples and studies have been tested to prove that teaching comprehensive curriculum is overall the more effective and efficient way to reverse the rapidly growing teenage birth rates across the entire United States of America. If comprehensive sexual education was actually implemented in different schools across the entire nation, teen birth rates would take a substantial plunge, leading to less teen mental, physical, and social setbacks, as well as an added boost to the United States’ economy. To reverse the downward spiral and provide teenagers with the knowledge that they so desperately need to be taught, people all across America must take a stand against the growing teen birth rates by implementing the teaching of comprehensive sex education in schools.
Blythe, Margaret J. "Comprehensive Sex Education Is Effective." Sexually Transmitted Diseases, edited by Roman Espejo, Greenhaven Press, 2011. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/EJ3010787215/OVIC?u=tel_a_wscc&sid=OVIC&xid=4c90caea. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019. Originally published as "Testimony of Margaret J. Blythe, MD, FAAP, FSAM, on Behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics," 2008.
Brownback, Sam, and Ed Feulner. “Sex Ed Funding: Pay for What Parents Want Kids to Know.” Christian Science Monitor, vol. 96, no. 116, 11 May 2004, p. 9. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=13048171&site=ehost-live.
Bruggink, Heidi. “Miseducation: The Lowdown on Abstinence-Only Sex-Ed Programs.” Humanist, vol. 67, no. 1, Jan. 2007, pp. 4–6. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=23485784&site=ehost-live.
Huelskamp, Amelia C., and Hannah P. Catalano. “Lessons Learned from Implementation and Evaluation of an Evidence-Based Sex Education Pilot Program for Minority Adolescent Females.” American Journal of Health Studies, vol. 33, no. 4, Oct. 2018, pp. 196–205. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=135580677&site=ehost-live.
Napier, Kristine. “Chastity Programs Shatter Sex-Ed Myths.” Policy Review, no. 83, May 1997, p. 12. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=9709280610&site=ehost-live.
Romero, Lisa, et al. “Reduced Disparities in Birth Rates Among Teens Aged 15-19 Years - United States, 2006-2007 and 2013-2014.” MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 65, no. 16, Apr. 2016, pp. 409–414. EBSCOhost, doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6516a1.
Stanger-Hall, Kathrin F., and David W. Hall. "Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S." PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 10, 2011, p. e24658. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A476868672/OVIC?u=tel_a_wscc&sid=OVIC&xid=194c16bf. Accessed 16 Nov. 2019.
Sullivan, Amy. “How to End The War Over Sex Ed.” TIME Magazine, vol. 173, no. 12, Mar. 2009, pp. 40–43. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=37039997&site=ehost-live.
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