California’s teen birth rate has fallen by 60 percent since 1991, and it is now the lowest it’s been in the state in the last 20 years. It must be because California is a state known for its abstinence-only education. Oh wait! That’s not true.
California actually has a law that requires all public schools in the state to offer comprehensive sex education and accurate information about birth control. And it looks like state health experts do think that the impressive decrease is due to the state’s comprehensive sex ed program.
Interesting — it’s like not hiding your head in the sand is actually helpful.
According to the new report, teen birth rates in California have declined across the board. For Latinas between 15-19, the birth rate fell from 74 births for every 1,000 girls to 42. It just goes down from there. The rate among black teen girls dropped from 51.8 births per 1,000 teenagers to 34.1. Among white teens that number went from 20.1 to 11.2, and for Asian teens it went from 13.9 to 5.3.
Wow, that’s incredible. Who knew a little knowledge could go so far?
This California study fits in pretty well with what we see happening elsewhere in the country. Teen birth rates are decreasing nationwide, but not uniformly. The southern United States is not doing as well in this area, which, incidentally, is the place where you are most likely to see abstinence-only education and low access to birth control.
This really feels like the difference between fear-based and knowledge-based sex ed. Not only does abstinence-only education not stop teens from having sex, it fosters a really unhealthy relationship with a major and natural part of life. It leaves these boys and girls ill-equipped to deal with sex when they decide to have it. I cannot imagine that ignoring the existence of sex for enjoyment – which, despite the saturation of sexiness in culture, is a prevalent way of handling the topic – leads to a more fulfilling sex life as an adult.
If we want to keep kids safe and give them the knowledge necessary to navigate sexual relationships, we can’t ignore the reality. The data is in and it’s compelling. Abstinence-only education doesn’t work. Comprehensive sex education is the best way to arm teens against unwanted pregnancies. Not only that, but access to birth control greatly decreases the number of abortions. So if we really want to decrease the number of teen pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies, it looks like comprehensive sex ed and access to birth control is the way to go.
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