Sex education curbs teen pregnancies



Closures and defunding of reproductive and sexual health programs and lack of effective sexual health education programs could reverse the record low number of teenage pregnancies in the United States.

Grace Gutterman, Contributing Writer

By June of 2018, the Trump administration will cancel the funding of programs connected to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program , meaning that the 81 projects that have reduced unprotected sexual activity, STIs, teen pregnancy and other issues related to sexual health will no longer exist, as federal funding is necessary “elsewhere.” The program started in 2010 and has proved that teenage birth rate has dropped by more than 40 percent since creation of the program, a record low for the United States, the fastest decline in history to date.

In 1967, the Guttmacher Institute declared teen pregnancy an epidemic, yet the United States government did not develop a positive and effective plan to end the epidemic until fifty years later. Once TPPP ends in June, the efforts of the program and the Centers for Disease and Control to reduce the spread of unsafe sexual behavior and sexually transmitted diseases will end. Also, there will be a push towards abstinence-only education, which has only been proven to increase the amount of sex and sexual partners teens were already having. The only real way to end the epidemic of teen pregnancy is for the Trump administration to continue funding the TPPP and for science-based sexual education to be taught in schools.

In 1873 congress made it illegal for birth control to be sent by mail or across state lines, making it inaccessible for most of the country to have safe sex–and the lack of contraceptives did lead to fewer people having sex. However, fewer contraceptives resulted in more pregnancies, specifically from adolescent females who were not only uneducated on sex but unable to get protection.

For the next hundred years, laws were passed and new contradictory laws were instituted to regulate birth control for women, criminalize abortion and overall to prevent young women from having sex. As a result, from 1940 to 1957, teen birth rate increased by 78 percent, as there were no legal ways to prevent pregnancy or terminate a pregnancy. Finally in 1973, abortion was legalized in the famous Roe v. Wade case, yet in 1988 the Reagan administration enforced the “Gag Rule” which prevented federally-funded family planning clinics to counsel low-income women on abortion, and in the same year the sexual activity among 15-year-olds rose from five percent to 26 percent in comparison to 1970.

Things really began to change in 1995 with Bill Clinton’s State of the Union Address, when he stated that “parents and leaders all across this country join together in a national campaign against teen pregnancy to make a difference.” With the help of federally funded sex education programs within school and the 81 programs that make up the TPPP, 25 percent of middle schools and 60 percent of high schoolers were taught about birth control in 2014, while in 1995 87 percent of females and 81 percent of males in school were not learning about birth control. Now, in 2018, teenage birth rate to a record low for the United States, and the dropped birth rate is due to the access of effective contraceptive and its effective use.

The impending problem is the government’s lack of support for sex education for teens, especially when the research shows how much sex education works to reduce risky sexual behavior. Trump cancelling federal funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program would erase the work of contraceptive healthcare for teenagers that has been fought for over the past two-hundred-years; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in 2016 that the national birth rate has fallen to an all time low throughout all of America across all races. Prior to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, male politicians have been able to pass laws that have forced adolescent girls into pregnancies that their bodies cannot handle.

UNICEF’s annual survey in 2009 revealed that women who give birth before they are 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women who give birth in their twenties, and each year almost 75,000 fifteen to nineteen-year-old women die either during childbirth or due to pregnancy complications. It is astonishing to see how great the impact is of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is just one year after it’s creation, helping young mothers or expectant mothers make choices that are right for their physical and mental selves.

Throughout Southern states, abstinence-only sex education is most popular ,and the South has the highest rate of teen pregnancy. According to the CDC, teen pregnancy and birth rates in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina are more than triple those of Vermont, New York and Minnesota, where non-abstinence sex education is encouraged. Abstinence programs make teens vow to stay virgins until they are married, but only 12 percent of the teens who take the vow keep it, making abstinence-only education a complete failure. Considering that in the area of the country in which the highest teen birth rates are most prevalent, it is fair to say that the abstinence-only education projected onto that group is not working.

Bill Clinton’s address in 1995 called on leaders to take action against teen pregnancy. This statement is as important then as it is today. When Trump defunds the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in June, it will begin to unravel the decade of hard work the Obama administration did, along with reversing the grand decrease of teen birth rates in the United States.

Not only will teen birth rates increase, but so will the spread of STIs and major diseases like HIV and AIDs. In 1997, almost 100,000 people in their late twenties in the United States reported living with AIDs and believed they had contracted the disease in their teens and that it had been a part of their lives for at least a decade. Prior to the program’s existence, the evidence proves that the need for sex education helped decrease the epidemic that is teen pregnancy and has greatly decreased the spread of STIs and the major public health crisis that is the spread of HIV and AIDs.

The solution is not to tell kids to stop having sex, as the CDC has proved that only 12 percent of kids will listen; the solution is to keep teaching kids about sex, the dangers of sex, the way to keep yourself safe from sex; and to overturn Trump’s rule, to press for the need for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in the United States of America.