Teen Pregnancy Prevention
by Jill Jordan Sieder
Teen birth rates in Georgia and in the U.S. are on the decline. Georgia, with the eighth highest rate in the country, counts more than half of its teens as sexually active, and one-third of Georgia girls get pregnant at least once. The Federal government has tried to reduce teen pregnancy by supporting abstinence-only sex education programs, but some experts say this approach may not be effective.
Since 1996, more than one billion dollars has been spent on sex education programs encouraging teens to wait on sex until marriage. These federally funded sex education programs are "abstinence-only" programs that ban teaching the use of condoms and contraception. But experts like Carol Hogue of Emory's public health school say these programs don't work. She says the abstinence-only programs may postpone a teen's initiation into sexual activity by six months, but once the teens become sexually active, they don't know what to do. As a result they have higher rates of STD's and higher rates of unintended pregnancies.
This month Congress voted to reauthorize $50 million in annual funding for sex education. But Democrats have changed the program to include funding for comprehensive sex education programs that teach both contraception and abstinence. President Bush has vowed to veto the bill, and conservatives in Congress, like Georgia Congressman Tom Price, prefer the abstinence-only approach. Price was warned against any new policy that "promotes promiscuity among young people." His view is shared by the Georgia Family Council.
Congress sends the sex education bill to the President later this month. It may have to override his veto for comprehensive sex education to become the new national policy.