Florida teen pregnancy task force says abstinence-only sex education is not enough

Pic via arcc-cdac.ca

Last month, the Northeast Florida Teen Pregnancy Task Force released a report outlining recommendations for dealing with the region’s persistent teen pregnancy problem.

The report (.pdf) was part of “a year-long process to identify strategies and community partners to address the high rate of teenage pregnancy, birth and repeat teen pregnancies in the region,” the group states.

Some of the findings in the study includes:

Sex education in school mostly focuses on abstinence, does not provide much information on birth control or STIs and doesn’t address the emotional aspect.

Research has shown that teens are more likely to use, and do better in, clinics that offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary model of physical, behavioral, and reproductive health care that is explicitly designed to welcome adolescents and respond to their particular needs.

Results from listening tours within the Duval County Public Schools with teens who experienced multiple pregnancies and births also showed pregnancies occurred because the teens did not have access to birth control, did not use birth control because they believe it doesn’t work or used birth control but still became pregnant.

Representatives from several area school districts identified reported that they must follow the state statute that mandates abstinence-only education as the expected standard in health education… [and] they identified the influence of strong proponents of abstinence only education and conservative culture of the community, in addition to opt-in forms that are required for classes, as barriers to comprehensive education.

In the Northeast region of Florida (Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties), teens “give birth at a higher rate than those statewide and nationwide,” the report found. According to numbers released this year in the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, eight out of the 13 counties in Florida with the highest rates of teen pregnancy saw an increase in teen pregnancy from 2008 to 2009. Despite an overall decrease in teen pregnancy nationwide and statewide, over 60 percent of the counties in Florida with the highest birth rate among teens who are between the ages of 15 and 19 did not manage to decrease their rates in 2009.

The report also explains that the correct number of teen pregnancies is hard to calculate, considering how many of the pregnancies result in abortions or miscarriages.

According to the report:

Estimates by Guttmacher for Florida indicate that births represent about 55 percent of all pregnancies to teens age 15-19, with miscarriages and abortions comprising the remainder. Based on these estimates, the pregnancy rate in Northeast Florida in 2010 was 66.5 pregnancies per 1,000 females age 15-19 years old. Florida does not require that abortion providers include age when reporting abortions, so any state figures are based on the number of abortions among all women in the state and the proportion of abortions obtained by women of the same age nationally.

The report also compiled information collected during listening tours, during which teens were asked questions about the sex education they were receiving. The task force found that as a result of the limited scientific information provided by abstinence-only sex education programs, “many teens believe birth control does not work and are not taught safe sex practices.”

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