Abstinence only education prevents youth pregnancy

By Megan Coyle

Unplanned pregnancy is a problem that needs to be addressed. About 3 million pregnancies in the United States were unplanned in the year 2001, which was approximately half of the 6.4 million pregnancies. Of these unplanned pregnancies, two-thirds were unwanted and 1.3 million ended in abortion. While legal restriction on abortion is a very divisive issue, both sides can work together to reduce abortion.Education can work to correct these issues. President-elect Barack Obama supports reproductive choice, but also supports the Prevention First Act that aims to prevent unintended pregnancy and therefore reduce the number of abortions. The bill also intends to increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education, end insurance discrimination against contraception, and provide compassionate assistance to rape victims. The most important of these is a comprehensive education.

Knowledge is the most powerful source of prevention and one of the best tools for fostering responsible individuals and promoting safe sex. Schools should provide a comprehensive sex education that stresses abstinence until marriage. Students need medically accurate information that includes both the benefits and failure rates of contraception. They also need to be aware of the realities of unsafe sex, including information on the consequences of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Teens account for 21 percent of unplanned pregnancies, and women in their twenties account for 55 percent. Overall, two-thirds of unplanned pregnancies occurred among unmarried women. Some effects from this are the facts that a child raised by an unmarried mother is six times more likely to live in poverty, three times more likely to be expelled from school, twice as likely to drop out of high school, and three times as likely to suffer emotional problems.

While progress has been made in dealing with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it remains a public health challenge and the Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year. Among young people ages 15 to 24, about one in four acquires an STI, which accounts for almost half of new STI cases.

Starting education before students become sexually active is critical in preventing early onset of sexual activity and for increasing the rate of contraceptive use for those who decide to become sexually active. Especially since data from 2005 to 2006 shows an increase in teen pregnancies, and that one third of girls under 20 became pregnant. Starting at a young age is especially important given the exposure youth have to sex-obsessed media.

With technological advances it has become increasingly easy to access pop culture and media, much of which promotes sex with a positive image. Contradicting this idea before it makes an impression is essential. If youth receive sound information about sex before they are introduced to sexual themes in entertainment media, they will be less likely to succumb to its influence.

Clear communication about sex should also be a priority for parents. It is one of the strongest protective factors against early sexual activity. Youth may be less likely to engage in sexual intercourse if they perceive parental disapproval. Reinforcing what is taught in school and serving as a base of accurate information that children feel comfortable accessing, should be the parental goal. In order to achieve this, education and support for parents on how to talk to children about sex should be available.

In the end it all comes down to responsibility. There is the responsibility of schools and parents to educate, and the responsibility of individuals to make sound decisions based on their knowledge.

Contact Megan Coyle at [email protected]