Abstinence-only sex education proponents will have to answer to some seriously persuasive numbers out of California this week:
According to a new report in the Spring 2010 issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review, California’s teen pregnancy rate declined by 52 percent between the years 1992 and 2005, the steepest drop registered by any state over that period.
And, as the report’s author Heather D. Boonstra points out in Winning Campaign: California’s Concerted Effort to Reduce Its Teen Pregnancy Rate, California is the only state that never applied for or accepted federal funding for abstinence-only sex education under Title V of the Social Security Act.
The comprehensive sex education program in California came on the heels of the $15 million failure of the state’s abstinence-based Education Now and Babies Later (ENABL) program, and the Guttmacher Institute – dedicated to “advancing sexual and reproductive health worlwide through research, policy analysis and public education” – is calling the results a win for comprehensive sex education in California and as a national and international model.
In 1992, California’s teen pregnancy rate was the highest in the nation: For every 1,000 women aged 15–19 in the state, 157 became pregnant that year. By 2005, the rate had essentially been cut in half—to an all-time low of 75 per 1,000. California’s teen pregnancy rate decline was the steepest for any state, and it was far above the national decline of 37% over the same period.
Although the causes of teen pregnancy are complex, public health experts in California credit teen pregnancy prevention efforts dating back to the 1990s for the state’s record declines. California—the only state that never accepted federal abstinence-only dollars—has made teen pregnancy prevention a high public policy priority, with a strong emphasis on providing teens with comprehensive sex education and on fostering their access to the information and health care services they need to prevent pregnancy and protect their health. This concerted, statewide effort, which is still ongoing, has spanned the administrations of three governors—two Republicans and one Democrat—and is notable for having garnered significant private-sector support as well (see chart). A closer look at this effort shows just how remarkable it is.
Boonstra breaks her analysis of the numbers from California into discussions of moving to comprehensive sex education, Increasing access to contraceptive services, involving the private sector, defying the demographic odds, and forging ahead in a tough environment, and the full report is a must-read for anyone involved in sex education and the prevention of teen and unwanted pregnancies.
Full report here: Winning Campaign: California’s Concerted Effort To Reduce Its Teen Pregnancy Rate