According to BusinessWeek, "More than 40 percent of unmarried U.S. teenagers -- or 4.3 million teen males and females -- have had sex at least once, a new U.S. government report shows."
"One of the great success stories of the past two decades has been the extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy and childbearing," said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "This progress has recently stalled out."
The interesting aspect of this new information is that one in five girls and one in four boys said they would be pleased if they or their partner got pregnant.
"This is really quite alarming," Albert said. "I don't think it takes a Ph.D. to understand that in this day and age and in this economy the route to success doesn't begin with a family at age 16."
The problem is that unwanted pregnancy has been glamorized by our media and society, while sex education has been demonized, limited, or not taught at all in some school districts. If we don't equip young people with knowledge about sex and the consequences when you engage in sex when you are not prepared, there will continue to be an increase in unwanted pregnancies, not to mention higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
According to BusinessWeek, "With nearly half of all teenagers stating that they are sexually active, we cannot afford to keep our heads in the sand about ensuring that our young people have access to comprehensive sex education," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "While it's encouraging to hear that a majority of them are using some form of birth control, many of the attitudes revealed in this report tell us that there is plenty of room for more comprehensive sex education that includes information about abstinence, contraception, healthy relationships, and responsible decision-making."
I agree with Cecile Richards in that comprehensive sex education would be a responsible way to address the unwanted pregnancy epidemic, but you have to realize that sex education should also be taught at home. Many people depend on the system to raise a child, when parents have to enlist an open-communication policy in their homes for the classroom discussion to be effective. If a young adult feels that they are being informed about sexual intercourse and they can go home and the parents reiterate what's taught and give personal experience with the lesson being taught, it makes more an impact on the person.
According to BusinessWeek, "The study, which analyzed data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth, also found that about one-quarter of female teens and 29 percent of males reported two or more sexual partners, the same as 2002. Females who started having sex when they were younger were more likely to accumulate more partners. While most teens had not had intercourse in the month before being asked about this (76 percent of females and 79 percent of males, the same as 2002), 12 percent of females and 10 percent of males reported having sex in the prior month."
What the alarming facts teach us is that our educational system needs work. We can't expect every school district to teach children about sex, as you can see by the statistics it's not happening. I am a firm believer in comprehensive sex education, but I also believe there needs to be a support system behind the teachings. You can give any child a condom and teach them how to use it, but what are they learning in the process? Are they learning about relationships? Are they learning about their bodies? What are you expecting them to get from the demonstration? I think this new information is great tool to start up discussion on what exactly people expect when it comes to good sex education.
The BusinessWeek article notes:
Seventy-one percent of female teens in 2006-2008 "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that "it is OK for an unmarried female to have a child," about the same proportion as 2002. But now 64 percent of males agreed with the statement, up from 50 percent in 2002."
The resources and education is key in making sure that students are well-informed about sex and can make a decision that is best for them and their bodies. Albert, further quoted in BusinessWeek, continues:
"When we talk about teen pregnancies and unplanned pregnancies more generally, people tend to focus on the important issues of cost and access [to birth control]. These are two critically important issues but I think that we often overlook this great ambivalence that many people have about when and under what circumstances to start families. Clearly, if you put a condom in everyone's hands they are not going to use them if they're ambivalent about getting pregnant. Cost and access are absolutely critical, but so is motivation."
Hopefully, with the recent information, we can get started making sure cost and access are a great motivation to make sure young people are being given medically accurate information, and provide skill-building resources to help them make informed decisions about their bodies.