Check the Numbers: Abstinence-Only Education Policies Are Failing Texas Families

Advocates of abstinence-only education policies argue that keeping teens ignorant about condoms and other forms of birth control and disease prevention will solve the problem of teen pregnancy in Texas. They often point to data showing that the state’s teen birth rate has declined since 1991 even while most schools have been teaching abstinence-only instead of comprehensive sex education.

But they’re not telling the full story. The teen birth rate has been going down across the country, and much faster than in Texas. Just look at the numbers.

New data shows that California’s teen birth rate, for example, plummeted from 71 to just just under 29 births per 1,000 teen girls between 1991 and 2011. Unlike in Texas, California schools teach comprehensive sex education. From the Los Angeles Times:

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.

Reproductive health planning projects like the California Personal Responsibility Education Program are also credited with the lower numbers.

“We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” said Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division.

Actually, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy notes that California’s teen birth rate in 1991 was 74 per 1,000 teen girls. The teen birth rate in Texas was only a little higher: 79. Since then, the Texas teen birth rate hasn’t fallen nearly as fast as in California and was, at nearly 47 in 2011, much higher than California’s rate of nearly 29.

What’s going on? The teen birth rate across the country has been falling as more teens delay sex or use birth control when they do have sex. On the other hand, Texas schools largely focus on simply telling teens to abstain from sex until marriage (or telling them nothing at all). Moreover, abstinence-only programs are often filled with wildly inaccurate and misleading information about birth control (and other things), as the TFN Education Fund’s reports on sex education in Texas public schools have shown.

Religious-right activists’ insistence on abstinence-only education policies in Texas simply makes no sense, and parents know it. In fact, a February 2013 poll from the TFN Education Fund showed that 84 percent of registered voters in Texas support teaching about birth control as well as abstinence in sex education classes.

Fortunately, TFN and our coalition partners stopped bills in the 2013 legislative session that would have made teaching responsible and effective sex education even harder for Texas schools. But too many Texas lawmakers are still way out of step with common sense and public opinion. Some even argue that sex education gets teens so “hot and bothered” that they can’t wait to jump in the sack with each other. Others seem to think sex education is a communist plot. Good grief.

The numbers show that making sure high school sex education classes provide medically accurate information on birth control along with emphasizing abstinence is important to solving the teen pregnancy crisis. Abstinence-only policies simply won’t do the job.

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8 Comments

  1. Charles
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Just so it will be stated, I will present the argument of the other side tonight. Here goes:

    Sure, we can give medically accurate sex education information to our kids and tell them all about birth control methods:

    1) We feel it would be wrong. embarrassing, and potentially dangerous to the psyche of a child to talk about the intimate details of sex and all of the “nastiness” that it entails (no pun intended). It would be like lacing every second sentence at a dinner-time conversation with four letter words, particularly that awful “f” word that has its very roots in the nasty debasement of human sexuality.

    2) Providing birth control to teenagers is like giving them a sex license. We believe that the life-killing ordeal of teenage motherhood has always been the best sex and pregnancy preventative as represented in that age old phrase: “Have a baby at 16 and your life is over even before it has begun.” A few foolish girls will, and the pain they get from it is what the sorry ass little deserve. As the good Lord says, “The wages of sin is death.” We need to quit coddling these minority of sinful girls with abortions and post-partum aid like food stamps. All these things do is to buffer and cushion them against the sharp knife of punishment that the Lord intended for low-life floozy girls.

    3) This is the most important thing. When all the girls have those Ortho pills, the frequency of teen sex will go through the roof and all the way out to Venus. The largest bumper crop off sexual sin and fornication that has ever hit this land will be upon us. All the boys and girls will be doing it with each other. You atheists and unchurched Texans have obviously not read your Bibles. Sexual sin is one of the sins that most angers the Lord. From one place to the next throughout the Bible, He is always harping on and obsessing about sex sins. It seems to be on his mind all of the time. When you read your Bible and realize that fundamental fact, it quickly brings you to the realization that God will one day look down upon our land (our fair Texas), filled to the brim and overflowing with teenage sexual iniquity. It will anger him so that he will remove all of our blessings from us (including our pink Cadillacs) and smite our land with an awful curse from which we may never recover. We feel that the danger here is just too great for any Texan to risk.

    • Charles
      Posted July 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      We be a thinkin ya Charlie fer that noss layin’ out on what weez ones is a believin’. Yoo tells them peeples at TFN: “Them thangs that they is a sayin’ and a doin’ about stoppin’ baby havin’. Why hits jist awfull.”

    • William Gonzalez
      Posted July 25, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Where is the pun?

      • Charles
        Posted July 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        If you have to ask, I ain’t tellin’? TFN?

    • Charlie
      Posted March 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Charles, you say that the best thing to do in order to prevent teen pregnancy is scaring them by telling them their life will be over by having a child early in life. Teens are already scared of getting pregnant even without reinforcement, and they are still getting pregnant. You can’t stop teens from having sex. The vast majority of them are going to do it no matter what. It’s natural to get sexual feings about someone at that age, and everyone will be horny at some point in life. I’m sure you have gotten feelings like that. So the best way to stop teen pregnancy is with contraception, whether it be “the pill” or condoms. Schools that only teach abstinence-only-untill-marriage is a recipie for disaster, it’s destined to fail. You need to teach teens alternatives to unprotected sex and not rely on the teachings of the bible like you say. Not everyone beleives in god, or takes it as seriously as you. Abstinence-only-untill- marriage also excludes people who are gay or do not want to get married. And if you exclude a big portion of people who you are teaching it makes them feel alienated and will go against the policies your tryin to teach them. Your comment was ignorant and riddled with common misinformation that you were probinly taught in your sex education class. You need to keep your mind open to alternatives that have been proven to work. Sex is not a sin in most peoples eyes. If done safely it can be an intimate and binding moment between partners. People who are married and stay abstinent untill then have been proven to get divorced at an alarming rate. This is because abstinent people are more likely to rush I to marriages at early ages just so they can act on sexual feelings they have been denying themselves and their partner. So take a step back from your bible and look at the facts and numbers behind the successes of teaching a comprehensive sex education curriculum that teaches both abstinence AND alternatives like safe sex or birth control methods.

  2. Posted July 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone surprised? Only those not living in the real world.

  3. Posted July 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Texas is so backward.

    • 1toughlady
      Posted July 25, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      We are not so drawkcab.

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