In 2010, the Obama Administration established the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) to provide funding to schools for comprehensive sex education to combat teenage pregnancy. TPPP is now undergoing massive changes under the Trump Administration, with education programs being pushed towards abstinence-only. This education program will include a sexual risk reduction model to reduce sexual behavior and a sexual risk avoidance model to avoid sex completely.
This program has been set into motion due to the claim that the comprehensive sex education put into place by Obama has been unsuccessful. However, it was shown by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention that birth rates among teens aged 15-19 has been halved since 2007. Shifting sex education back to an abstinence-only focus will only serve to increase teenage pregnancy. Teens will have sex no matter what we teach them, so you might as well equip them with the proper knowledge to be safe. You tell someone not to drink and drive, you don’t tell them not to drive and you definitely don’t refuse to teach them how to drive or about proper seat belt safety. Ignorance is not prevention, it is just dangerous.
The evidence of the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education is clear within differences in our own country. For years, California has been implementing comprehensive sex education and ensuring access to contraception. There, from 1991-2012 the birth rate has dropped by 74 percent. In Texas, however, the majority of schools teach abstinence-only or do not provide any sex education at all. During this same time period the birth rate in Texas also dropped, but only by 56 percent.
Research scientist Linda Lindberg argues that promoting abstinence until marriage as the only option for teens “violates medical ethics and harms young people.” These programs purposefully withhold information about pregnancy and STD prevention increasing the risks for teens. Some supporters of abstinence-only education argue that we have gone so far to promote teen promiscuity and have resigned to teenagers being sexually active. Teens know about sex, around 46 percent of teens have already had sex. Trying to pretend that sex is not an option is not going to affect their choice at all.
Senator Patty Murray commented on this push towards abstinence-only education, saying “These changes show yet again that the Trump-Pence Administration’s priority is imposing its extreme, backwards ideology, no matter what that means for women, families, and communities.” Murray importantly draws attention to the damage this choice will be inflicting on women. With the Trump-Pence Administration trying to take away access to a full range of birth control methods, eliminate teen pregnancy prevention programs and end abortion in our time women are being extremely attacked. Not only are we not being taught about sex and how to be safe, but we will not have access to contraception and will not be helped in any way if we do get pregnant. It seems as though they are creating the perfect storm for increasing teenage and unwanted pregnancies. In addition to only being taught abstinence, official Huber of the Department of Health and Human Services discussed teaching women “refusal skills,” which is just another way in which women are blamed for the overly sexualized way they are viewed by society. These changes are also highly dangerous to the young LGBTQ community, making it harder for these already underrepresented teens to get access to vital knowledge about safe sex.
The choices this Administration is making and the policies they are pushing are dangerous for our youth, especially for women and the LGBTQ community. As much as our conservative leaders would love to keep everyone chaste and pure until marriage, that simply will not happen. Again this administration fueled by anti-intellectualism pushes ignorance onto its citizens and names it progress. I think it’s safe to say that we all would like for Trump and Pence to stop meddling in our sex lives.
Samantha Pierce is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.