Curbing Teen-Age Pregnancy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 16, 2003 | Go to article overview

Curbing Teen-Age Pregnancy


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The article "America, expecting" (Culture, Friday) depicts California and Texas, two states with especially high Hispanic populations, as competitors. The challenge: Which state's sex education philosophy will produce fewer births among its teen population.

California has adopted the "comprehensive" approach. (In other words, "Abstinence is a good idea, now here's how to use contraception so you won't produce any more babies.") Texas follows the abstinence-only approach.

Specifically, the challenge cited is to reduce the number of births to Hispanic teens. Pointy-headed pundits surely will deny any racist motives in throwing down this gauntlet. And, for the sake of single-mindedness, I'll skip that topic.

The biggest problem with the challenge is that it assumes everyone agrees on the primary goal of reducing teen pregnancies. Most Americans agree that, in today's society, teens are better off not taking on the role of parent. But, as unconventional as this sounds, it does not logically follow that preventing births to teens should be sex educators' No. 1 goal.

As full of difficulties as teen parenting can be, it is not an insurmountable obstacle for a young, married couple. My in-laws, for example, were married and became parents before they hit their twentieth birthdays. Forty-five years later, they're probably the happiest couple I know. And all five of their children are happily married, too.

Abstinence educators are more likely to see teen births as just one symptom of the problem of unmarried teens engaging in casual sex. Focusing on reducing teen births through contraceptive methods, as the California model does, still leaves youths vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and the emotionally damaging consequences of premarital sex. …

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