Governor Blames Teens For His Failed Abstinence Only Policies, Says They ‘Do Not Care’ About Birth Control

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

Even though the increased numbers of young women using effective forms of birth control have contributed to a steady decline in the teen birth rate over the past decade, Mississippi has retained the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the nation. At an event this week to address the issue of unintended pregnancy in the state, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) told reporters he believes that although most adolescents do know how to obtain and use contraception, “the problem is teenagers do not care enough” about using birth control.

The GOP governor cited an education campaign that his administration sponsored this year as an example of the steps he’s taking to address the problem:

Bryant appointed a group earlier this year to study ways to reduce teenage pregnancy, and it has also sponsored town-hall meetings in Jackson and Lexington. The group has posted several billboards around the state with a photo of a pregnant belly, complete with stretch marks, next to the slogan: “Scars may fade. A baby is FOREVER.” [...]

Bryant told The Daily Leader that town-hall meetings to discuss teen pregnancy are important. “The road to success is in having an open, frank discussion and saying we need to stop this,” Bryant said.

Bryant has said repeatedly that he believes abstinence-only is the best approach to teaching young people about sex. It’s the approach that’s been used for years by the school districts that already were teaching optional classes about sex education.

In fact, Bryant’s approach to reducing the number of unintended pregnancies in his state is directly contradictory. Even though he claims Mississippi’s high teen pregnancy rate is not due to a lack of education about birth control, and rather a disregard for using it, the reality is that many teens choose to forgo contraception because they are grossly misinformed about how effective it is. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one third of teen mothers decided not to use birth control when they became sexually active because they just didn’t believe they could get pregnant.

And that lack of education about effective contraception is a direct result of the abstinence-only education programs that Bryant supports. Studies have confirmed that when students aren’t given comprehensive, medically accurate information about how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, they end up with serious gaps in their sexual education.

A 2011 Mississippi state law requires that some kind of gender-separated sexual education must be offered in public schools, but the school districts are split between providing abstinence-only education classes and “abstinence plus” classes that — while still primarily pushing shame-based abstinence messages — include some mention about some forms of contraception. Even though Bryant’s billboards may be trying to tell teenagers that babies are “forever,” young adults won’t start getting the message about effectively preventing unintended pregnancy until they receive medically accurate information about it.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Photo: USDAGov/flickr


Ken W.
Ken W6 years ago

gop / DUMB !

William C.
William C.6 years ago

@Pamela T. "Teens need to get some responsibility first and foremost. And, teens should be made to feel guilty if they act out."

You, madam, are an idiot. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the definition of "Teen". Teen: "an adolescent that hasn't matured sufficiently to take responsibility for their actions."

The point is to solve the problem, not moralize about it or whine about uneducated teenagers not "taking responsibility".

Here's an idea. We ditch the useless, money-wasting "abstinence" sex ed, and actually teach these ignorant adolescents how pregnancy happens, how to prevent it, and how to act responsibly.

Then we watch to see if having the tools and the knowledge to act responsibly reduces teen pregnancy, as it has in every other State.

This is about solving the problem, not whinging about your religious fixations.

Jennifer U.
Jennifer A6 years ago

What an ignorant fool to assume that teenagers know how to obtain birth control when sex education only teaches them about abstinence. Abstinence may be the only 100% method of preventing unwanted pregnancies but you can't expect a teenager to want or even have that kind of control over themselves yet.

Jeanne C.
Jeanne Crabb6 years ago

It continues to amaze me that in this modern day and age that people with beliefs such as this Gov. Bryant of Miss. continue to get elected to office of Gov, Senators, Reps and what have you. We don't NEED people like this in public office. When will the public get smart enough to STOP electing them?? Abstinence only education is just plain stupid.

rene davis
irene davis6 years ago

well if he personally wanted be a role model for these kids, maybe they'd get inspired. But would he give up jis right to have sex?

Carla van der Meer

When will people learn that abstinence only education does not work. Kids are surrounded by sexual messages, simply telling them to say no is unrealistic and dangerous. Blaming and shaming them for not being responsible when they have no knowledge is completely obscene.

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N6 years ago

If he wasn't hooked on the blame, shame game. he wouldn't be so lame.

The pity of it is, that he's helping to ruin so many lives.

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy6 years ago

Teenagers have been having sex and getting knocked up since forever. However the world is a different and dangerous place to raise children right now. The system tells us everything will be alright and misleads our kids to think life is going to be oh so great. Teens need to get some responsibility first and foremost. And, teens should be made to feel guilty if they act out. Teens should be made to realize that they do not have the answers they think they have and we need to stop this teen pregnancy thing. Has nothing to do with the governor or whomever. Teens are being misled by the background and media wire services who dont care whom they midlead or mistreat.

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy6 years ago

Fact is...teens do not need to be reproducing unless they are responsibly married. and they need to learn that now.

Jeanne C.
Jeanne Crabb6 years ago

The people in the state of Miss. need to get with the times and elect a governor with some common sense. With the overal teen pregnancy rate going down nationwide and yet Miss still has the highest in the nation, something is seriously wrong.