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The United States ranks first in high teen pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted diseases. Since 2011, 400,000 girls between the age of 15-19 years old have given birth every year (Stanger-Hall, and Hall). So why is nothing being done about it? Why is the government putting these programs that are not helping the statistics go down in place?
While some may argue abstinence-only education is the best way to keep teens and even middle schoolers from becoming pregnant and/or developing an STD. Others would argue that abstinence-only education is the main cause for the rates being as high as they are right now. They would argue that there needs to be open sex talks with teens so that in the future, they may feel comfortable enough to talk to them if need be. As a country, the awareness of the government funding abstinence-only education programs needs to become stronger, and young adults need to be educated with all possible options available.The government is funding abstinence-only sex education.
How it works
The U.S. government has prioritized the motto “in God we trust” over the well-being and safety of its citizens. During the term of the Obama administration, they distributed money to abstinence-only sex education programs in a more comprehensive manner. They “initially invested 110 million” (Johnson) into this approach, worrying more about the results. Now that President Donald Trump is in office, some fear that the policy may go back to the way it was before. Damaging the decline in the teen pregnancy and STD rates that the Obama administration brought down and giving it the opportunity for an increase. They were starting to see signs of cuts in the programs from the “GOP majorities in House and Senate routinely proposed cuts to the programs that provide contraceptives and screenings for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases” (Johnson), but the vote failed to pass Obama. Many low-income families depend on and have gotten a lot of help from these programs because they are cost-effective and accessible.
While America’s statistics become higher and higher due to budget cuts, the Netherlands has the smallest statistics for STDs and teen pregnancy rates. In the Netherlands, not only do they talk openly about sex in school, but they also openly talk in their homes too. Most kids start learning about their bodies at the age of four. By their teenage years, they are more focused on how to have healthy relationships while having safe sex. Since Dutch kids receive sex education earlier in life, and it is normalized day-to-day, they choose to have sex later, compared to the United States, where almost 2/3 of teens wish they had waited longer (Abraham). The Netherlands school system also teaches gender-identity issues, opening the door for those that have gender identity issues to feel more comfortable talking about it. Therefore, people think that this type of education leads to teens wanting to be more sexually active, but it does the opposite with this type of approach. Since they start educating kids at a young age, they are less susceptible to common temptations because they know all the effects and consequences that sex can have if they are not safe. Sex has different meanings for different people (Dailard). That being said, the United States is limiting its ideas on what sex education really is instead of broadening the way they think about educating its kids about their bodies.
Some may argue that abstinence is the only one-hundred percent way of not getting pregnant or developing STDs, but they also do not take into account that it can keep young adults uneducated about their options regarding their body and their life. There is a common misconception that birth control is only pills, IUDs, or even shots, but birth control is actually any method, medicine, or form of protection that prevents pregnancy (“Birth Control”). This would include female condoms, male condoms, spermicides, Plan B, Sponges, etc. (“Birth Control”). Even though some of those listed are not as affected, they still need to be brought up in conversation so young adults know their options and do not have to limit themselves to learning from their surroundings. Limiting young adults to the internet or other peers, who may have had bad sexual experiences, creates negative connotations and unrealistic expectations. With open sex education in schools and homes, young adults will be more willing to come and talk to a superior if they feel something is not right. Not only starting a needed conversation but also reducing the fear of talking to superiors when it is needed.
This is a big problem in the United States, and it needs to be fixed. If rates are typically higher in schools with those programs, why are they still in place, leaving young adults uneducated, still, and spending even more money on a program that’s ineffective? There are other ways of telling young adults how to stay safe instead of just giving them one option. Show them their options and tell them the consequences. Chances are they will want to be safe if they know everything. Do not just stop after having the sex talk. Young adults need to know how to have healthy and happy relationships as well as having safe sex. Just like, “When it rains, actions are taken to prevent flooding before it has a chance to occur. So why isn’t teenage pregnancy treated similarly? It’s not enough to simply tell students an activity is off-limits and not prepare them for the consequences of participating in it as well” (“Ending Abstinence”).
Abstinence-only education is actually ineffective in declining unplanned pregnancies in the United States because young adults are not educated. “Rates of pregnancy have actually been shown to be higher at schools with abstinence programs. A study conducted in 2011 revealed that abstinence-only sex education was correlated with higher rates of teen pregnancy” (“Ending Abstinence”). Furthermore, young adults are still not educated and do not know that there are several different types of birth control for any type of body, and some do not have as many side effects. There are short-acting hormonal methods, which are a shot, a pill, an IUD, etc. There are barrier methods, which are condoms, diaphragms, etc. (“Birth Control”). There are also natural rhythm methods, which is when some women decide to avoid sex only on the days they are fertile (“Birth Control”).
For any longer-lasting birth control, there are procedures that can be done but talking to a doctor about the options first would be a good start. Young adults can go to a local health clinic and state that they need free contraceptives, and they will help. Today’s birth control pills even “have lower doses of hormones than in the past. This has lowered the risk of side effects and serious health problems” (“Birth Control”). So even though some argue that they do not want open sex talks because it will lead to young adults wanting to be sexually active, they are leaving them in the dark instead of telling them their options and the consequences of not having protected sex. Open up the conversation and protect the next generation.
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