Teenage pregnancy is a heavy topic, one that no one seems to want to talk about. The birth rate for teens aged 15-19 is 22.3 for every group of 1000 women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our district talks about teen pregnancy once in our education, squished in with our 7th grade science classes
Texas’ public schools’ sexual education course range between abstinence-only, abstinence-plus, or no course at all. The majority of public school districts in Texas are abstinence-only taught. According to a report released by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund in 2017, 58.3% of Texas public schools teach abstinence-only sex education, 25.1% have no sex education course, and just 16.6% teach an abstinence-plus education.
The abstinence-plus program is a sex education course that provides information on condoms and other forms of protection as well as the prevention of sexually transmitted infections within the context of pushing abstinence according to the same report. Abstinence-only programs, which omit accurate contraception information, provide an incomplete sexual education experience. Districts that teach abstinence-only curriculum have to resort to third-party sex education courses, the most-used a textbook called Lifetime Health. Lifetime Health provides an online program available to the public. The textbook, which does not address reproductive health until the sixth and final unit, teaches ways to prevent STDs. The first answer is to practice abstinence, and the second to last being educating yourself on STDs and STD prevention. It’s quite obvious that staying abstinent will greatly prevent your chances of becoming pregnant. When sex isn’t involved, it is pretty difficult to get pregnant. These abstinence-only programs aren’t helpful to the students. Teenagers have sex, and telling them not to isn’t going to stop them. All that these programs achieve is unsuccessfully preparing students for their sexual health, where they will not have the information that they need on contraception and prevention of STIs and STDs.
With public schools dropping the ball, places called pregnancy crisis centers, or pregnancy resource centers began to pop up around public high schools. Pregnancy crisis centers are nonprofit organizations that commonly focus on counseling a woman to consider abortion alternatives, as supported by the aforementioned sex education report. Heart of Texas Pregnancy Research Center is located within walking distance from our high school and advertise services such as pregnancy testing, individual support, a baby boutique, medical referrals, adoption referrals, and parenting life skills classes all at no cost on their website. They have two locations, one walking distance from us and another located within walking distance from Reagan High School. In addition, Heart of Texas Pregnancy Resource Center offers directions to their two centers from 20 different high schools in the Hays and Travis County area on their website.
These crisis centers are quite controversial, mainly for their reputation of misinforming expectant mothers. Organizations like NARAL Pro-choice Texas that are opposed to pregnancy crisis centers often point to a pamphlet handed out in some pregnancy crisis centers called a Women’s Right to Know which is created by Texas Health and Human Services. The issue claimed within this pamphlet is that it provides misinformation regarding the risk of development of breast cancer related to abortion. The pamphlet reads that if the expectant mother “give birth to her baby” that she is “less likely to develop breast cancer in the future” and that “research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you with this increased protection against cancer.” However, according to the American Cancer society, scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship with abortion and breast cancer. These resource centers do provide an adequate support system for teens questioning pregnancy however, these organizations do not successfully fill the gap that exists in sex education
According to the 2017 annual Texas STD Surveillance report, almost two-thirds of new chlamydia infections inside the United States occur to persons age 15-24 years old. Abstinence-only programs do not work, and students cannot be too sure to trust every adult that comes at them with sexual health information. Students are left to fend for themselves, shifting the responsibility from the schools to their own resourcefulness regarding sexual health. Students have the choice to either listen blindly to the often incomplete or inaccurate programs taught or seek out sexual education for themselves. None of this is going to change unless we shift our views on sexual health and education. Our sexual education programs in Texas are not making enough impact on students with the way they are written, so I urge you seek your own education through either talking with your parents, speaking to your health care provider, or searching for accurate sexual health information online until Texas public school districts change.
Written by Tessa Stigler, Opinion Editor