In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ranked Massachusetts as the state with the lowest birth rates among teenage girls ages 15 to 19.
But just because teenage pregnancies may be falling, that doesn’t mean sex education is up to the highest quality it could be.
As of 2020, 27 states mandate both sex education and HIV education. However, out of 50 states, only 17 require sex education to be medically accurate. Medically accurate sex education is defined as scientifically-based and published in peer-reviewed journals and textbooks.
Dr. Linda Lindberg and colleagues analyzed data from a national survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in their National Survey for Family Growth and found only 60% of girls ages 15 to 19 reported receiving a formal education on birth control methods.
This is a 10% decrease between the 2006-2010 survey when compared to the 2011-2013 survey.
In the 2011-2013 survey of male teens, only 55% of individuals reported receiving a formal education on birth control methods, a 6% decrease from the 2006-2010 survey.
There is a large misconception concerning sexual education that teaching students to “just say no” is the best decision because if schools educate students about sex education, it will encourage them to participate in sexual activity.
However, this three-word campaign slogan pushed by Nancy Reagan in the 1980s does not help the students who do say yes.
By providing a sex education that includes information on teen pregnancy, different methods of birth control and the importance of STD testing, along with the idea of consent, teens will learn about sex in a much more realistic way than just avoiding it altogether.
By teaching students abstinence-only sex education, it reinforces taboos of sex and fails to provide students who are sexually active proper and safe education.
According to Columbia University, the United States government has spent $2 billion on domestic abstinence-only programs from 1982 to 2017. Instead of spending this money on abstinence-only programs, that have been proven to only delay sexual initiation, not decrease teen pregnancy and prevent STDs, this money could be better spent on providing comprehensive sex education nationwide.
Just last month, the Massachusetts Senate voted to require schools who offer sex education to provide medically accurate information, discuss consent, and include LGBTQ+-inclusive material, while allowing parents to opt their children out of the class. The bill will go back to the House, where it has died twice so far.
It shouldn’t matter if sex education makes you uncomfortable. Shielding teens from reality isn’t protecting them – it’s encouraging misinformation, and potentially serious mistakes.
If we don’t teach our kids, they’re still going to seek the information out – but often from inaccurate or misleading sources.
Teens have a right to make their own decisions and control of their own bodies.