Vancouver, WA – May 8, 2009 — In recognition of the eighth annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Planned Parenthood called for public funding of comprehensive, medically accurate sex education programs to reduce the alarming rate of unintended teen pregnancies in this country.
“Teens deserve honest, accurate, age-appropriate information about how to protect themselves,” said David Greenberg, PPCW President and CEO. “They need sex education that provides information about healthy communication, responsible decision making, as well as abstinence and contraception as ways to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.”
The U.S. teen birthrate increased for the second year in a row, according to data released in March by the National Center for Health Statistics. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports the U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy among comparable countries. An estimated 750,000 American teens become pregnant each year.
In Washington, birth and pregnancy rates among teens are also on the rise. Rates rose in 2006 and 2007 after declining for more than a decade (WA State Department of Health 2008).
Recently, steps have been taken by the Washington State Legislature to address the problem. In 2007 the Washington State Legislature passed the Healthy Youth Act to create common sense standards for sexual health education; information must be medically accurate and include information about both abstinence and contraception.
This year, the legislature passed a bill ensuring that state applications for sexual health education funds are limited to programs that are medically accurate and proven effective. Additionally, this bill eliminates the requirement that the state apply for discredited federal Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program funds. The bill was signed by Governor Gregoire last week.
In stark contrast to the positive steps being taken to ensure quality sex education in our state, cuts have been made to the very programs that provide services to sexually active teens and adults. The 2009-2011 operating budget cuts the largest state-only family planning fund by 10% in year one of the biennium, to $4.5 million, and then cuts it 70% in mid-2010 to $1.5 million, based on a hope that the federal government will fix the Medicaid family planning program before the next legislative session.
“We are fortunate that Washington State is leading the nation in defining and demanding quality, medically-accurate sex education for its young people,” said Greenberg. “We need the federal government to show the same commitment to this issue to bolster the work happening locally. But we also need the state legislature to fund the programs that actually serve our sexually active teens. Reducing teen pregnancy requires a two-pronged approach – education and access to affordable services.”
Planned Parenthood affiliate educators nationwide reach more than 1.2 million young people and adults with medically accurate sex education each year. As a trusted health care provider, Planned Parenthood knows firsthand the power of education to help teens make responsible decisions about their health. Every year we provide three million women, men, and teens nationwide with health information and services to prevent unintended pregnancy and protect their health.
Providing teens and young people with the information they need to make responsible decisions is the commonsense solution to reducing unintended teen pregnancy. Numerous studies have analyzed abstinence-only programs and found them to be ineffective.
A study conducted by the University of Washington found that teens who had comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to become pregnant than teens who had no sex education or who were in abstinence-only programs. A study by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that two-thirds of the examined sex education programs that focus on both abstinence and contraception had a positive effect on teen sexual behavior. And a 2008 Guttmacher Institute report found that most abstinence programs did not delay initiation of sexual activity.
President Barack Obama has consistently supported comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education. As a senator, President Obama was an original co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, which would ensure that all taxpayer-funded federal programs are medically accurate and include information about contraception.
Planned Parenthood is a 2009 national partner of the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, an effort to help teens understand the importance of avoiding unintended pregnancy. For more information, please visit The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
For more information on PPCW, visit http://www.ppcw.org/.