Chapter 4 Preface
The 1996 Welfare Reform Act contains many provisions aimed at combating teenage pregnancy, including the reduction of welfare benefits for teens who are not in school and not living with a suitable guardian and increased enforcement of statutory rape laws. One of the most controversial provisions provides $50 million in federal funds for abstinenceonly sex education in schools.
Supporters of abstinence-only sex education maintain that traditional sex education programs, which provide information about contraception and protection from disease, send students mixed messages about whether sexual activity is permissible at such a young age. The 1996 act requires that abstinence-only sex education programs convey to students that “abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children,” and “sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.” As stated by medical doctor Joe McIlhaney, “The best that ‘safer sex’ approaches can offer is some risk reduction. Abstinence . . . offers risk elimination. When the risks of pregnancy and disease are so great, even with contraception, how can we advocate anything less?”
Others maintain that abstinence-only sex education programs are unrealistic. Since many adolescents are having sex, these critics argue, teens should be informed of how to protect themselves against pregnancy and...
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Abstinence-Only Sex Education Can Reduce Teenage Pregnancy
Iam a ‘20-something’ year old black female, a former 2ndrunner up to Miss Black America, an entertainer, president of a corporation, and a virgin. I’ve had the unique opportunity to be invited by School Districts, Abstinence groups, and even state organizations such as the Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Family Planning in California, to share the message of abstinence. I’ve spoken to nearly a million teenagers of different racial and socio-economic backgrounds in assemblies across America over the past 9 years. My greatest motivation in doing so is to empower them with some of the same tools I was fortunate enough to grow up with, which I feel are lacking in our culture today. The first thing I communicate to teens and adults alike is the fact that abstinence is not just shaking ones finger at a generation and telling them to ‘just say no’ to sex.
Abstinence is a lifestyle. It is mastering the art of:
3. Delay of self-gratification . . .
To more vividly share what I have witnessed over these past few years, I’d like to put it in the context of the 10 most commonly shared opinions about teens and sexuality:
1. It can’t happen to me
2. We just need to teach them safe sex
3. They’re gonna do it anyway
4. Sex is a natural bodily function that can’t be controlled
5. It’s too...
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Abstinence-Only Sex Education Cannot Reduce Teenage Pregnancy
Recently abstinence-only education has captivated the attention of legislators. Through welfare reform legislation that establishes an abstinence-only education entitlement program and appropriations for the Adolescent Family Life Act program (AFLA), Congress has allocated millions of dollars for abstinence-only education.
Such an emphasis on abstinence-only education is misplaced. Abstinence-only programs stress that abstinence is the only acceptable behavior for adolescents. They fail to provide information regarding pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease (STD) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention beyond urging that teenagers abstain. Often, such programs stress abstinence until marriage. They frequently base their message on fear, using scare tactics rather than factual, medically accurate information to educate. If information regarding contraception or STD/HIV prevention methods other than abstinence is included, such information generally includes only failure rates.
Comprehensive, responsible sexuality education, on the other hand, not only teaches abstinence and resistance skills, but also provides teens with the contraceptive and STD/HIV prevention information they need to make responsible decisions if and when they become sexually active. Although abstinence is a vital component of a comprehensive sexuality education program, it should not be the only lesson taught. By denying teens the full range of information...
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Traditional Sex Education Can Reduce Teenage Pregnancy
Although the rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States has been declining, it remains the highest in the developed world. Approximately 97 per 1,000 women aged 15–19—one million American teenagers—become pregnant each year. The majority of these pregnancies—78 percent— are unintended.
Moreover, because the average age of menarche has reached an all-time low of about 12 or 13 years, and because four out of five young people have sex as teenagers, a greater proportion of teenage girls are at risk of becoming pregnant than ever before.
The consequences of adolescent pregnancy and childbearing are serious and numerous:
• Teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely than their peers who delay childbearing to live in poverty and to rely on welfare.
• The children of teenage mothers are often born at low birth weight, experience health and developmental problems, and are frequently poor, abused, and/or neglected.
• Teenage pregnancy poses a substantial financial burden to society, estimated at $7 billion annually in lost tax revenues, public assistance, child health care, foster care, and involvement with the criminal justice system.
As a result, the United States needs a number of initiatives to reduce its teenage pregnancy rate and the negative outcomes that accompany it. These initiatives should incorporate medically accurate sexuality education and...
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Welfare Reform May Reduce Teenage Pregnancy
Almost no one thinks it’s a good idea for unwed teenagers to become parents. It would be the odd parent, indeed, who counseled their own teenage son or daughter to start a family, most parents hope that their children will finish school, find a job, and marry before they take on the burdens of parenthood. But what the majority of parents, almost regardless of race or social class, want for their own children is not what we have. Instead, 40 percent of all girls in the United States become pregnant before their twentieth birthday, and one out of every five goes on to become a teen mother. The overwhelming majority of these young mothers are unmarried and end up poor and on welfare.
Declining Pregnancy Rates
Certainly, recent social trends are encouraging. Teen pregnancy rates have declined—almost as sharply during the 1990s as they had increased in the preceding two decades. And for the first time, teen birth rates are dropping not because more teens are having abortions but because fewer of them are getting pregnant in the first place.
These recent declines auger well for the future, but it is worth remembering that teenage pregnancy rates in America are still at least twice as high as in other industrialized countries and about as high as they were in the early 1970s. About half of these pregnancies are carried to term while the remainder either end with a miscarriage or are terminated by an abortion. Very few teen mothers...
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Welfare Benefits Do Not Reduce Teenage Pregnancy
All across America, young girls who still are children themselves are bearing children of their own. It is a calamity for these young mothers, because early motherhood denies them opportunities and choices; for their offspring, because most will grow up poor and without a father; and for the nation, because these youngsters are likely to repeat the tragic cycle of poverty and dysfunction into which they were born. However, it is a calamity that is preventable.
Compelling evidence now supports what most Americans long have understood intuitively. Family structure and lifestyle, as well as economics, influence how children turn out. Those of young, unmarried mothers fare badly, and society pays the cost. The equation is straightforward: As poverty is the most accurate predictor of teen pregnancy, teen pregnancy is a near certain predictor of poverty. Twothirds of never married mothers raise their kids in poverty.
Children of unmarried teen mothers are far more likely than those of older, two parent families to fall behind and drop out of school, get into trouble with the law, abuse drugs and join gangs, have children of their own out of wedlock, and become dependent on welfare.
The situation is urgent. There are over 9,000,000 youngsters living in welfare families. As they reach adolescence, many are “scripted” to repeat the lives of their parents. It is vital to intervene and break the cycle before those children, too, become...
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Male Involvement Programs Can Reduce Teenage Pregnancy
Everyone knows that it takes two to create a pregnancy, but, until recently, efforts to reduce teen pregnancy often left boys and young men out of the picture. To understand more about this omission and new efforts to remedy it, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Family Impact Seminar co-sponsored a roundtable meeting of scholars, practitioners, policy officials, and representatives from organizations serving male youth. The purpose was to review research about male sexual behavior, to get the facts straight about the age differences between teen girls and their male partners, and to explore the lessons being learned from the growing number of efforts to target males in teen pregnancy prevention. This report is based primarily on a background paper for the meeting, panel presentations at the meeting itself, and general roundtable discussions.
Key Facts About Male Sexual Behavior
Sexual Activity. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the percentage of all teenagers engaging in sexual intercourse steadily increased. However, there is some evidence that teen sexual activity may have leveled off in recent years. With regard to males, in 1988, 60 percent of never-married males aged 15–19 reported having had sex. By 1995, only 55 percent of never-married males aged 15–19 reported having had sexual intercourse.
Contraception. Although reported condom use at first intercourse by males aged 15–19 increased...
(The entire section is 3487 words.)