I’ve written before about how abstinence-only sex miseducation doesn’t work, as have lots of other people. Here’s another piece of evidence.
According to the report to Changing Behavior Risk for Pregnancy Among High School Students in the United States, 1991–2007, which the Guttmacher Institute released, teen pregnancy rates are clearly linked to contraceptive use. It’s a surprise!
Here’s a section from the press release:
Our previous research has shown that contraceptive use was a key factor in reducing teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s, despite little significant change in teen sexual activity. The authors suggest that the recent decline in teen contraceptive use since 2003 could be the result of faltering HIV prevention efforts among youth, or of more than a decade of abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education that does not mention contraception unless it is to disparage its use and effectiveness.
This reversal in contraceptive use is consistent with increases in the teen birth rate in 2006 and 2007 as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and may well portend further increases in teen pregnancies and births in 2008. The authors recommend reinvigorated efforts at both the state and national levels to promote contraceptive use among teens through medically accurate sex education and increased access to health services, to effectively address the problem of teen pregnancy. The Western European experience in reducing teen pregnancy and childbearing—with rates that are far lower than in the United States—suggests that efforts to improve teen contraceptive use are warranted.
So let me make sure I have this right. If we want to lower the rate of teen pregnancy, we need to offer accurate information about sexuality and contraception. And lying to teens about sex and trying to scare them into not having sex doesn’t make them not have sex, but it leads to increases in pregnancy. Pretty groundbreaking, isn’t it.
I’m really impressed with the last two sentences from the report. They’re couched in very politically savvy language and it’s a masterpiece of walking a fine line:
The U.S. might redirect its energy from persistently divisiveness political debates around sexuality education and abortion to support reinvigorated efforts to prevention of unplanned pregnancy by promoting the importance of consistent and effective contraception and protection against STIs. A consensus among adults on how to promote health sexuality would benefit teens as they struggle with the perils and perplexities of emerging adolescent sexuality.