Penny for your Thoughts
With the recent decrease of teen pregnancies since 1988 in the United States, one has to wonder what was the change that influenced this? Was it a bigger push in abstinence, or more readily available contraceptives? Believe it or not, neither of those things have statistically attributed to the steady decline of teen pregnancies in the United States. Studies show that states who adapt their sexual education programs to teach medically accurate and non-abstinence based sex ed have less cases of teen pregnancies.
Although things are looking up, there are still states that refuse to reform their education. In fact, only 24 states require sex ed even be taught, and of those, only 13 require the information that is taught to be medically accurate. Only 18 states require that information on contraception be provided, whereas a whopping 37 require that information on abstinence be provided. Twenty six of those 37 states explicitly require that abstinence be stressed. Unfortunately, only 13 states require the inclusion of information on the negative outcomes of teen sex and pregnancy.
In Iowa specifically, sex education is mandated, as is teaching about HIV protection. It is required to be medically accurate and age appropriate, as well as culturally appropriate and unbiased. However, it is perfectly legal to push a certain religion. Schools in Iowa must also give parent’s notice and the option to opt out According to Lowell Ernst, the Director of Instruction for the Pella School district, “The bottom line in Iowa is that what is taught in the local district is still a local decision. As long as we meet these broad statements, how we do it is up to us as a school.”
The closest thing we get to sex ed in Pella High School is the Health class we are forced to take sophomore year. The purpose of that class was to get us all certified in CPR, the only thing we talked about that had anything to do with sexual health was learning what happens after the sperm has already impregnated the egg and learning about STI’s. Since it is health class, it has to focus on personal health, food and nutrition, environmental health, safety and survival skills,. The basic guidelines for Iowa sex education is to teach about the body systems, whether they be specifically about sex or not. The only thing required when teaching about sex is that it must be age-appropriate. There’s not a lot other than the requirement to teach about HIV prevention that says that a school has to teach about sex.
Sexual education can prevent unwanted pregnancies a lot more than any abstinence lesson would. Each year, approximately 750,000 teenagers in the United States become pregnant. This isn’t because the United States government has put one billion dollars into abstinence-based sex education. This number has only gone down because of the sex ed classes teaching about birth control methods. There have been many studies that prove that introducing good sexual education decreases the amount of teen pregnancies and teenage STI’s. With recent reforms it has been getting better, but we still have a long way to go.