One Possible Reason Why The U.S. Has One Of The Highest Teen Pregnancy Rates In The World

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Here's some quick, hardcore reasons why the "no sex because I said so" education model just isn’t working.


Lisa mentions that 58% of students sex it up in high school. Our snazzy fact checkers disagree. 54% was the highest number they found on a CDC chart. As of 2013, that number declined to 47%.

Also, one thing she doesn’t mention is that while the U.S. does have the highest teen pregnancy rate, that number has wiggled its way down over the past 20 years. In 2013, according to the HHS and CDC, it hit a new low of 26.6 per 1,000.

Do you think that’s because of how sex education is being taught in some states? Holler at me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts.

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Lisa Ferguson: Did you know that teen pregnancy rates in the United States are higher than in any other industrialized country? Sex education is supposed to help prevent against things like unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and HIV, but it's not doing as well as it should. This is why.

Ever since the Reagan administration, the United States has pumped billions of dollars into abstinence-only education. Adults don't want teens to have sex, and they think teaching them about condoms will make them more likely to have sex, so they say, "No sex until marriage," and sometimes that's all teens get in terms of sex education. But guess what, teens are still having sex.

Fifty-eight percent of US high school students have had sex, and a full 80% of Evangelical Christians admit to having sex before marriage. So, it seems this whole abstinence-only plan isn't working. In fact, states with abstinence-only sex education also have the highest rates of teen pregnancies. Coincidence? No.

Studies show that abstinence-only programs have literally no effect on getting teens to abstain from sex. And researchers have found that teens who received abstinence-only education are less likely to use contraception. But teens who received comprehensive sex education, like learning about condoms and birth control, are 60% less likely to get pregnant or to get somebody else pregnant.

When we give teens abstinence-only education it doesn't mean they won't have sex. They'll still have sex, but now they're uneducated and unprepared. But we still keep pumping millions of dollars into a broken system. Only 22 states plus D.C. require sex education to be taught in schools. That's less than half the country. Of those, only 11 states and D.C. require schools to teach about contraception. And of those 11 states, only 5 require the information to be medically accurate. That means that out of 50 states plus D.C., less than 10% of the country is doing it right. Meanwhile, other countries that have more progressive attitudes about sex education are starting to teach their teens about sexting and porn and other issues that teens have to deal with in real life. But for whatever reason, here in the United States, we seem to be stuck in a different decade where we don't like to talk about sex, we don't want to teach kids about sex, and so we say, "No sex until marriage."

But clearly that system just isn't working. It's only depriving our teens of education and ultimately leading to uninformed and unsafe decisions. So, do we need comprehensive sex education? Yes, absolutely. And there are some really cool organizations pushing for comprehensive sex ed around the country. So, make sure you check those out in the description down below, and please make sure to like and subscribe.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Lisa Ferguson is the straight-shooting journalist who produced this clip. For more of her masterful call-outs on education, gender, and the economy, check out her YouTube channel and Facebook page. Thumbnail image via Thinkstock.

Aug 07, 2014

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