Teen birth rate hits new low

The teen birth rate has declined by 61 percent since its peak in 1991, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2006 and 2014, the teen birth rate for Hispanics fell by 51 percent and for blacks by 44 percent, while the birth rate for white teens declined by 35 percent. Hispanic and black teens remain twice as likely to give birth.

Some think MTV's "16 and Pregnant" has discouraged teen pregnancy by showing its challenges.

Some think MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” has discouraged teen pregnancy by showing its challenges.

More teens “are taking advantage of innovations like long-acting injectable and implantable methods that can last years over a daily birth control pill,” writes Ariana Eunjung Cha in the Washington Post. And teens are “having less sex.”

For younger teens, there’s now peer pressure to be abstinent, says Veronica Gomez-Lobo, director of pediatric gynecology at Children’s National Medical Center.

Abortion rates have declined or stayed in the same in every state but Vermont, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s research, Cha adds.

One of the most interesting possibilities has been the popularity of MTV’s hit reality show “16 and Pregnant.” The struggles of the young moms in the show – who were often shown in tears—may have served as cautionary tales to millions of viewers their age. A study that came out in 2014 estimated that teen births dropped 6 percent in the 18 months following the show’s first broadcasts.

Others theorize that better sex education programs and the ability to research effective contraception online have contributed to the decline.

Mom: Kids get ‘terror-based sex ed’

Alice Dreger, a sex researcher, sat in on her ninth-grader son’s sex education class, she writes in The Stranger. It wasn’t supposed to be “abstinence-only” sex ed, but sex was depicted as shameful and birth control as so unreliable as to be pointless, she found.  It was “terror-based sex education.”

A P.E. teacher supervised while visiting speakers told students that sex leads to “consequences” — always bad ones.

“Jerry” said he’d started using alcohol and drugs at a young age, then got his girlfriend pregnant when her birth control failed. After 11 years of drug abuse and failure, he met a beautiful, abstinent girl, wooed her chastely, married her and then fathered two children. “If you find one who says ‘no,’ that’s the one you want,” Jerry told the students.

. . . we had learned that sex is associated with drug abuse, drug overdose, disease, unwanted pregnancy—pretty much every horror you can name except shingles and Lawrence Welk.

And that good girls say “no,” and you don’t want you no slut who says “yes.”

The other visiting speaker, “Ms. Thomas,” warned that “it takes only one act of sex to get pregnant.”

I wanted to raise my hand and blurt out, “Not if it’s anal or oral!”

She moved on to a “game.” The game involved everyone getting a number from one to six. She rolled the dice. If your number came up, your condom failed. But your condom didn’t just fail. A pregnancy resulted. And from the pregnancy came a baby. When your number came up, you raised your hand and Ms. Thomas handed you a paper baby.

It took all my willpower not to go up to the regular teacher at this point and ask if there weren’t some scissors in his desk we could use to hand around for paper abortions to prevent all these unwanted paper babies. But I didn’t. Within a few minutes, the entire class was preggers. Even the boys.

In “a progressive school district in a liberal college town,” students are taught to fear sex, Dreger complains.

Abstinence ed is now ‘risk avoidance’

Abstinence-only sex education has been rebranded as “risk avoidance” sex ed, writes Ed Week‘s Ross Brenneman.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) wants to increase grants for risk avoidance ed in response to a Centers for Disease Control report that says young people ages 15 to 24 are responsible for half of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections.

Abstinence-education groups claim “risk avoidance abstinence education” is more effective than comprehensive sex education.

Tennessee: ‘No holding hands’ in sex ed class

“Spurred by a classroom demonstration involving a sex toy,” Tennessee has barred teachers from promoting “gateway sexual activity,” reports CBS News. Critics call it the “no holding-hands bill.

Tennessee’s teen pregnancy rate “has dropped steadily since the first abstinence-focused sex education curriculum was put in place in the 1990s,” but remains one of the highest in the nation.

Utah governor vetoes sex ed ban

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a bill that would have banned discussion of contraception in sex ed classes. A Republican in a very conservative state, Herbert gave the veto a parent control spin.

. . .  Herbert said that as a parent and grandparent he considered proper sex education in public schools an important component to the moral education youngsters receive at home.

“If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah’s parents as to what is best for their children,” he said.

Currently, schools can teach “abstinence plus” sex ed, with parents’ consent, or abstinence-only.

. . .  Utah teachers may describe different types of contraceptives, how they work (such as by preventing transfer of bodily fluids) and their success and failure rates, though they may not advocate their use or explain to students how to use them.

The bill also would have barred instruction on homosexuality or other types of human sexuality.

Kids delay sex after abstinence classes

Abstinence-only classes delayed sex for black sixth and seventh graders, concludes a new study.  Previous research has found no effects for abstinence education and the Obama administration plans to defund current abstinence education programs.

“This is a rigorous study that means we can now say that it’s possible for an abstinence-only intervention to be effective,” Dr. John B. Jemmott III, the University of Pennsylvania professor who led the study, said Tuesday, hours after results of the study were released. “That’s important, because for some populations, abstinence is the only acceptable message.”

Roughly a third of the students who participated in a weekend abstinence-only class started having sex in the next two years, compared with half who were randomly assigned instead to classes teaching safer sex or general health information. For those who got the gold standard of sex education — comprehensive instruction on both abstinence and safer sex —  about 42 percent began having sex in the following two years.

“None of the curricula had any effect on the prevalence of unprotected sexual intercourse or consistent condom use,” an editorial in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine added.

The abstinence program did not take a moralistic tone or tell children not to have sex before marriage. It did not disparage condom use.

Instead, it involved assignments to help sixth- and seventh graders see the drawbacks to sexual activity at their age, including having them list the pros and cons themselves. Their “cons” far outnumbered the “pros.”

“The message was not mixed with any other messages,” said Jemmott.