Comprehensive Sex Education

December 9, 2008
By Chelsea Anderson, Deland, FL

Speaking to or teaching teenagers about sex is a continuing controversy. Statistics from the Guttmacher Institute show that nearly half of U.S. teenagers between the ages of 15-19 have had sex. There has always been a debate on the curriculum of sex education. Some people believe that abstinence only education is the only kind of education that should be taught in U.S. public schools, while others believe in the need to teach comprehensive sex education. Statistics show that teenagers do have sex, are contracting STDs, and are getting pregnant.

Although many U.S. states disagree with teaching abstinence only sex education, the government has funded over a billion dollars to schools over the past ten years that have taught an abstinence only curriculum. The Grand Rapids Press affirmed, in 2008 the Bush administration gave $ 200 million to schools in the U.S. for abstinence only curriculums. In the United States, we are divided on our opinion of sex education. Sharyl Attkisson from CBS News reported in 14 states both abstinence and contraception are taught, in 19 states only teaching abstinence is required and in 17 states the state does not specify on which sex education curriculum to teach. “The National Abstinence Education Association argues that comprehensive sex education in schools doesn’t reduce the number of teens having sex”, reported in the Grand Rapids Press. But contrary to the National Abstinence Education Association a study by The Mathematica Policy Research study found that students who had received abstinence only education showed the same propensity toward having sex as students who had not been taught an abstinence only curriculum.

Health officials are very concerned with the number of teenagers contracting sexually transmitted diseases. In the United States over 3 million teenage girls ages 14 to 19 have an STD. In a study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of teenage girls tested positive for one type of STD and 15% of teenage girls had more than one infection. “For any other disease, we would be calling this an epidemic,” said Dr. John M. Douglas Jr., director of the Center for Disease Control’s Division of STD Prevention. The Florida State Senate affirmed, in the industrialized world, the U.S. has the greatest rate of STDs and in 2005, there were 19 million new cases of STDs reported in the U.S. and half of the reported cases were in people between the ages of 15 to 24.

Another concern of health officials and physicians in the U.S. is the number of teen pregnancies. Statistics in a 2008 Florida State Senate Sex Education Bill stated, in the industrialized world, the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate, between 750,000 and 850,000 teen pregnancies a year. Of the teen pregnancies in the U.S. from teenagers 15 to 19 years old, 75%-90% are unintended pregnancies. In 2007 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a survey of the number of sexually active high school females. The results of the survey show that in 2007, 45.9% of females had sex at least once and 35.6% were currently sexually active. The overwhelming number of teen pregnancies in the U.S. may be a result of the teenagers use or misuse of contraceptives. Another survey done in 2007 by the CDC showed that high school females during their last sexual encounter, only 54.9% used a condom and only 18.7% used birth control pills.

Teen births also increase health risks for the mother and their baby. The March of Dimes reported that teen pregnancies are more likely to result in premature newborns than women over the age of 20 who give birth. Many teen mothers are unaware that they are pregnant and engage in behaviors dangerous to the baby. Teen mothers are more likely to smoke during their pregnancy than women over the age of 25 who are pregnant. Teenagers are the least likely of women of any age to receive prenatal care. Teenage pregnancies are 20% more likely to have complications during pregnancy which may include; premature labor, anemia and high blood pressure. By understanding the effects of sex and how to use contraception we can decrease the number of teen pregnancies in the U.S. Teen pregnancies not only affect the teen and their baby but can be a costly indirect effect on many Americans.

The Florida Senate reported teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases put an economic burden on the U.S. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Unplanned Pregnancy reported that every year there is approximately 800,000 teen pregnancies in the U.S. These teen childbirths cost the nation at least $ 9.1 billion a year. The medical costs of sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. were approximately $ 14.1 billion a year, Florida Senate. A better understanding of the effects of sex and the use of contraception could lower the number of teen pregnancies and the medical costs that result from unsafe sex.

Although some people believe that abstinence only education should be the only sex education taught in U.S. public schools, research has shown that numerous teenagers are having sex. Many teenagers in the U.S. are having unplanned pregnancies and are contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence only education is not only having direct negative effects on teenagers but also indirect effects on the economy. Research has proven that comprehensive sex education needs to be taught in U.S. public schools.

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