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MEMPHIS, TN - Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region urges the Tennessee General Assembly to reject abstinence-only sexuality education and focus on improving the state’s dismal sexual health as conveyed in the report “Sexual Health of Young People in the U.S. South: Challenges and Opportunities,”  recently released by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Center for Demographic Research.

Tennessee ranked poorly in all the metrics studied in the report, including teenage birth rates, infant mortality rates, sexually transmitted infection rates and condom use. The report outlines the far-reaching financial and social consequences for individuals and the state-wide community for Tennessee and 9 other Southern states. 

• In 2009 the Tennessee teen birth rate was 50.6 per 1,000 among Tennessee females ages 15-19, compared to 39.1 per 1,000 for the entire U.S. 
• Teenage birth rates in West Tennessee and particularly in Shelby County are especially high, ranking 60 percent higher than the national average.
• In 2011, 67.9 percent of unintended births in Tennessee were paid for by public dollars, costing Tennessee taxpayers at least $272 million. 

The report details the correlation between these health outcomes and a lack of evidence-based sexual health education. It also highlights opportunities decision-makers have to improve the sexual health of teenagers in the U.S. South, including new federal grant programs which provide funding for evidence-based programs that teach young people how to delay sexual activity and avoid risky sexual behaviors. These approaches include information about abstinence but also teach information on healthy relationships, contraception and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. 

“Bills like HB3621 threaten to hurt Tennessee youth and families by imposing abstinence-only-until-marriage education in public schools. We strongly urge policy makers to equip teens with fact-based information and the skills to make healthy decisions,” said Barry Chase, President of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region.  “Families, faith communities, schools, and community groups all play important roles in raising our youth.  Together, we can improve the sexual health of young people and brighten the future prospects of our youth, our families, and our communities.”

“The vast majority of the public supports sexuality education in schools that discusses abstinence, contraception, STI’s, decision-making and refusal skills, but HB3621 would make it nearly impossible for teachers to effectively teach these skills to our teens,” said Chase.

The full report “Sexual Health of Young People in the U.S. South: Challenges and Opportunities,” can be found here: http://www.demographics.aum.edu/uploadedfile/CDR_SexualHealth_6-1.pdf

For more information about Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region’s outreach and education offerings, go here.


Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR), founded in 1938, is an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. PPGMR’s mission is to ensure broad public access to reproductive and related health care through clinic services, education, advocacy and community partnerships in serving 42 counties in West Tennessee, North Mississippi and East Arkansas.


Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region


Joan Carr
Director of Community Affairs
(901) 725-3008


April 05, 2012