Investing In Sensible Sex Ed

by Tracy R. Walsh

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Sarah Mirk welcomes the news that, between 2007 and 2011, “the teen birth rate nationwide dropped a whopping 25 percent.” Mirk credits a change in how the government funds sex education:

Instead of betting all its money on abstinence-only education, since 2010, reproductive health advocates pushed federal policy to instead favor “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention programs—meaning rigorous research has shown they’re actually effective. Or, as Katy Suellentrop of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy puts it, “The biggest policy change in teen pregnancy was in 2010 when there was a focus on using programs that work.” From 1998 to 2010, the federal government spent over a billion dollars on abstinence-only sex education. During that same time, the teen birth rates slowed, flat-lined, then actually began to increase in 2006, and then declined again. Now, the government sets aside $190 million to fund “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention programs like the ones working with Multnomah County’s Latino youth.

The birth rate for 15- to 19-year-olds reached a record low of 31.3 per 1,000 in 2011, according to the CDC.