It’s the National Sex Ed Week of Action! Now with PRIZES! (For the first reader who emails me with answers to the quiz below!) But first, a quick true or false:
• The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among the world’s developed nations.
• According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one in four teen girls has a sexually transmitted infection.
• Half of sexually active young people in the U.S. will contract a sexually transmitted infection by age 25.
• Approximately 750,000 teenagers in the United States will become pregnant this year.
• The health care reform bill included a renewal of $50 million per year funding of abstinence-only education for states until 2014.
• This Op-Ed by an Atlanta teen about the importance of comprehensive, accurate sex ed is awesome.
Answer key: TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE.
Which, now that we’re all riled up, brings us to the one with PRIZES!Planned Parenthood of NYC, BG’s local affiliate, is giving away a package of safe-sex goodies to the BG reader who emails me with the correct answers to all five of the following (at least peripherally) sex-ed related questions. Pencils ready?
1. In how many states is it still illegal for an unmarried heterosexual couple to live together?
2. What was the name of the first daytime television show to feature a same sex wedding?
3. What famous female advocate founded the first birth control clinic and later founded Planned Parenthood?
4. Japanese love pillows, which usually decorated with life-size animae characters are called what?
5. What species was the famous gay couple who raised an offspring named Tango together?
Filed under: News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 7:58 am
According to the CDC, the teen birth rate has dropped. Whether this is unequivocally good news is unclear, given, for example, the convincing evidence that a preponderance of teens are saving themselves for a vampire. Here’s what Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, had to say:
“The drop in the teen birthrate after a two-year increase is welcome news, but the fact remains that nearly 750,000 teens become pregnant every year, a number that is still unacceptably high. When it comes to preventing unintended pregnancies and keeping our teens healthy and safe, hiding our heads in the sand is not a sound strategy. Our young people need education and support that comes from comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sex ed.
“That’s why we must continue to invest in commonsense policies that achieve our shared goal of truly preventing unintended pregnancies and lowering the teen pregnancy and birthrate. Full funding for comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education programs will put our nation on a sustained path of decreased teen birthrates.
“President Obama and members of Congress have taken a major step forward in allocating more than $185 million in evidence-based, medically accurate teen pregnancy prevention programs. [Yeah, but...?!] Studies show that these types of comprehensive sex education programs are effective in reducing teen pregnancy.
“As we mark STD Awareness Month and the launch of our Get Yourself Tested, or GYT, campaign with MTV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kaiser Family Foundation (www.gytnow.org), it is imperative that we take the issue of teen health seriously. An investment in comprehensive sex education is an investment in reducing STDs and unintended and teen pregnancies. It’s that simple.”
Filed under: News, issues — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:49 am
The New York Times reports that a study of middle-school students has “found for the first time that abstinence-only education helped to delay their sexual initiation.” Uh oh? The finding “is already beginning to shake up the longstanding debate over how best to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”
Okay okay! Nobody panic! Keep reading.
“[T]he abstinence-only classes in the Jemmott study…unlike the federally supported abstinence programs now in use, did not advocate abstinence until marriage. The classes also did not portray sex negativelyor suggest that condoms are ineffective, and contained only medically accurate information. [This] abstinence-only course was designed for the research, and is not in current use in schools.” [Emphasis added.]
Well, there you go. Look, the debate has never been about abstinence-only vs. “…and, for your homework, please have sex this afternoon.” It’s moralistic, inaccurate abstinence-only vs. comprehensive and realistic: please wait; if you don’t, please be responsible. Though there are those who will misrepresent this research as surely as they misrepresent the effectiveness of condoms, it’s actually yet another vote in our favor.
Update: This (PDF) just in from our heroes at Guttmacher: “While the evaluated program is the first abstinence-only intervention to demonstrate this positive impact in a randomized control trial, it was not a rigid ‘abstinence-only-until-marriage’ program of the type that, until this year, received significant federal funding. The evaluation, therefore, adds important new information to the question of “what works” in sex education, but it essentially leaves intact the significant body of evidence showing that abstinence-only- until-marriage programming that met previous federal guidelines is ineffective.”
Over the past few weeks, Milwaukee teens have seen and and heard promo after promo for the horror film 2028. There’s blood, screaming, creepy lighting, gravelly voice-over, the works. Over time, though, it became clear that these weren’t trailers for a movie, they were trailers for YOUR LIFE. Your life, that is, if you’re young and knocked up. While the first round of previews ended with “in theaters January,” subsequent edits closed on the following message: “Get pregnant as a teen and the next 18 years could be the hardest of your life.” Then, a Web address flashes on screen: BabyCanWait.com. Oh, snap!
According to Broadsheet, this is just one of at least 15 anti-teen pregnancy campaigns presented by the United Way’s Healthy Girls program in Milwaukee. “Past print ads included images of teen boys with pregnant bellies and a baby diaper with a brown “scratch-’n'-sniff” spot. The ads’ creator says the aim is to offer a contrast to high-profile young mothers like Jamie Lynn Spears and “deglamorize” teen pregnancy…and credits the decline in the state’s teen pregnancy rate in part to their “aggressive and provocative” approach.” Note: BabyCanWait.com provides information about contraception and STD’s. This is not an abstinence-only campaign.
But, as Broadsheet’s Tracy Clark-Flory asks, “Are these shock-and-awe tactics the best way to reach kids?” While I sympathize with the goal, and appreciate the clear and creative commitment to it, something about the trailer didn’t sit well with me.
For one thing, horror movies are “glamorous,” too. (Older) teens — and women — like Saw, say. Not saying it’s aspirational, but the genre itself is seen as a double-dog-dare lark, not a cautionary tale about (say) losing your virginity at summer ca — REE! REE! REE! You know? So there’s that.
There’s also something about it that contributes to an ugly stigma. Teen mothers as screaming bloody victims. The baby as some sort of evil spawn. Or something like that. Ick. Not helpful.
Finally, I don’t think kids are running around getting (people) pregnant because Bristol and Jamie Lynn made it look so, like, cute. Or even just because ADULTS ARE LYING TO THEM ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL, which they are. There are so many naive, misguided, melancholy, ironic reasons that teens want to get pregnant, be parents. They’ve seen their sisters and brothers and friends do it. And it’s hard hard hard. But — based on what’s become normal to them — it’s not a horrorshow. I’m not sure you can convince them it is in a one-minute trailer when the rest of their life says otherwise.
Filed under: News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:11 am
BREAKING: Our friends over at the esteemed Guttmacher Institute report news that’s sadly about as unsurprising as the lamented John Edwards being Quinn’s dad. That is: “For the first time in more than a decade, the nation’s teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006 [the most recent source of data], reflecting increases in teen birth and abortion rates of 4% and 1%, respectively.”
2006: Let’s plot that on a timeline of SURELY UNRELATED events in U.S. history. Aha: Turns out a long-term decline in teen pregnancy — due in part to increased contraceptive use among teens — flattened out and then reversed…what’s this? The decline reversed at the same time that the Bush administration and Congress ramped up funding for rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that are prohibited from discussing the benefits of contraception. Coincidence, or…? Yeah, gotta be coincidence.
“After more than a decade of progress, this reversal is deeply troubling,” says Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute senior public policy associate. “It coincides with an increase in rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which received major funding boosts under the Bush administration. A strong body of research shows that these programs do not work. Fortunately, the heyday of this failed experiment has come to an end with the enactment of a new teen pregnancy prevention initiative that ensures that programs will be age-appropriate, medically accurate and, most importantly, based on research demonstrating their effectiveness.”
And: “It is clearly time to redouble our efforts to make sure our young people have the information, interpersonal skills and health services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to become sexually healthy adults,” said Lawrence Finer, Guttmacher’s director of domestic research.
For starters, we’ll need to let them read the dictionary.
(Click here (PDF) for the full report, “U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity,” and click here for Guttmacher’s Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health. Also, find Guttmacher on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.)
A judge has thrown a shoe the book at the Bush-era FDA’s restrictions on emergency contraception, ruling that the agency must scrap its policy of preventing young women under 18 from buying Plan B over the counter. He gave the administration 30 days to make the change, snarling — rightly — that the “political considerations, delays and implausible justifications” (not to mention whispers of teen sex cults!) tripping up the approval process for Plan B in general had stinkety-stank to high heaven. Rawk.
As Ellen Goodman wrote in 2005 of the redonkulous restriction: “What no one dared suggest is that just maybe teenagers should have the easiest, not the hardest access to Plan B. Aren’t the youngest precisely those who should be most protected from pregnancy? Or do we still think that motherhood should be the punishment for sex?” And: “If teenagers also need Plan B it’s because Plan A — abstinence — fails more often than condoms. Too many teenagers end up pregnant, facing Plan C: abortion or motherhood. In the name of protection, we are leaving teenagers far too vulnerable.” Now, one hopes, no more.
It’s sort of a necessity once you hit the age — you know, the age between “boys/girls have cooties” and “I’m pregnant!” — that your school district (one hopes, anyway) starts flooding the lesson-plan infrastructure with talks about SEX and CONDOMS and VAGINAS. OH MY GOD. (My mom used to call them “pookies,” by the way, so from my childhood on, anytime I met a furry friend or stuffed animal with that name I burst into hysterics. Nobody got it.) Anyway. Planned Parenthood, as you may know, also — especially where schools and other grownups drop the ball — tries to help teens muddle through the skeery, scary world of sex. (Free condoms are part of the deal too, so I’ve heard.)
But have you seen their latest sex-ed videos? Wow, are they not the usual “If you respect me the way I respect me you’ll wait.” They include: a goofy sense of irony, a doofy mustachioed man, and — somehow — the line, “Hey, a horse is a majestic creature!” The allure lies in … well, not Mustache Guy, but in the meta-: the (finally!) successful attempt to bring humor to oodginess and taboo. Win/win: Planned Parenthood gets their message across, and teenagers across the nation sigh deeply with relief knowing that, armed with this knowledge about STIs and more, they can totally tune out their parents.