Has this resulted from efforts to scale back sex education in schools during the Bush years as the social left claims? Or is it because of increased sexual licentiousness throughout the culture as the social right claims?
Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush‘s evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US’s major public health body.
In a report that will surprise few of Bush’s critics on the issue, the Centres for Disease Control says years of falling rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease infections under previous administrations were reversed or stalled in the Bush years. According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but are up sharply in more than half of American states since 2005. The study also revealed that the number of teenage females with syphilis has risen by nearly half after a significant decrease while a two-decade fall in the gonorrhea infection rate is being reversed. The number of AIDS cases in adolescent boys has nearly doubled.
The CDC says that southern states, where there is often the greatest emphasis on abstinence and religion, tend to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs.
In addition, about 16,000 pregnancies were reported among 10- to 14-year-old girls in 2004 and a similar number of young people in the age group reported having a sexually transmitted disease.
Kristi Hamrick argues that it’s not teaching abstinence which is to blame:
“It is ridiculous to say that a programme we nominally invest in has failed when it fails to overcome the most sexualised culture in world history. Education that emphasises abstinence as the best option for teens makes up a minuscule part of overall sex education in the United States,” she said.
“In every other area of public policy – food, drugs, alcohol – we tell children what is the best choice. It seems very bizarre that the sex education establishment rejects the idea that we should talk to kids about what is best for them. We don’t take vodka to drivers education because children will drink and drive.”
But the issue is that what is best for their health is that they understand how to protect themselves from diseases. Whatever the ethics of teen sex may be, it only becomes a comparable public health hazard to drunk driving when you don’t teach teens how to do it responsibly.