A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Teen Pregnancy Drops In U.S. (But Not Nearly Enough)

CNN was trumpeting recently that the teen pregnancy rate in the United States has dropped again. It now rests at about 34.3 births for every 1,000 teenage girls. That is the lowest rate for the United States since 1946 (66 years ago). Great news. Right?

Well, it's great news if your standard for great news is pretty low. That 34.3 birth rate is still among the highest for all developed nations. Our neighbor to the north, Canada, has a rate of only 14 per 1,000. Many of the European countries, like France, the Netherlands, and all of the Nordic countries have a much smaller rate than even Canada. Japan was also down into single digits.

The truth is that even though the rate has fallen in this country, it is still far too high. And one reason for it is because far too many states still refuse to teach sex education -- relying on "abstinence-only" preaching instead. And those states naturally have the highest teen pregnancy rates.

There is no reason why the United States should have a higher rate than other developed nations. The only reason it's happening is because too many Americans believe that teaching real sex education in the schools will make teenagers want to have sex (and that offends their religious beliefs). It's a ridiculous belief. Too many teens are going to have sex whether sex education is taught or not. That's just a part of what happens in the teen years. But educated teens can at least avoid getting pregnant or catching an STD. All we have to do is look at the success of the other developed nations to see that.

I'm glad the rate has fallen. But it is time we really get serious about this problem. And it's not going to be solved by preaching and burying our heads in the sand.

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