This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 25 July 2013.
The state of California has seen teen pregnancy rates drop to a 20-year low, across all ethnicities.
You would, to the surprise of no one who understands what being a teenager is like, be wrong. From a linked article:
Public health experts say state laws are responsible for the decline because they require public schools that offer sex education classes to provide scientifically reliable instructions on how contraceptives work along with information about abstinence.
What’s that? Scientifically reliable information together with “information about abstinence”, which might involve supporting teens’ individual choices and instilling the idea that they can resist social pressure to have sex if they’re not ready? How the fuck could that possibly be effective?
Especially when compared to the amazing results delivered by the “abstinence-only education, scaremongering, and general judgyness” approach.
Over the past decade, teen pregnancy rates have consistently been higher in Southern states that don’t provide students with adequate sexual health instruction. Since abstinence-only courses often present misleading information about contraception, a full 60 percent of young adults underestimate birth control’s effectiveness and are more likely to skip it because they don’t believe it will make a difference. And teens in rural areas still struggle to access contraception, partly because there are fewer health clinics in less populous places and partly because a societal stigma surrounding teen sexuality still pervades conservative communities.
California has also come up with innovative concepts like “getting bilingual moderators when dealing with bilingual teens”. And check out this fucking sexy graphic from the CDC about how to design “teen-friendly” health visits.
The facts are plain and simple. Giving young people actual full information – not “you’re going to get cancer every time you give head” information – and the power or esteem or respect to make their own decisions works. It doesn’t mean there’ll never be any teen pregnancy, it doesn’t mean we’ll eradicate STDs, it doesn’t mean teenagers will stop being emotional hormonal creatures struggling to find their identity and place in society.
But it does mean they’re far better equipped to deal with that than lying to them.
If you’re of a conspiratorial mind, you might ask why lying abstinence-pushers are so insistent on a strategy which empirically does not work. You might think about modern capitalism’s need for a less-empowered class of worker drones, and its use of racism and patriarchy to keep certain groups of people in line when it comes to doing the shitty underpaid jobs which and making the babies which are necessary for the elite’s continued lives of luxury.
Of course it’s possible that they’re honestly such self-absorbed, hateful douchecanoes that they’ll happily throw teenagers under the bus if they don’t conform to said douchecanoes’ personal beliefs about How Things Should Be.
But moral, upstanding compassionate folks? They are not.