Saturday, January 05, 2008

Sex Ed Failing to halt teen pregnancy

That is the headline in the UK Telegraph. I can't help but think that the US media would have had a slightly different "slant" on this story.

For example, here is the lead of the UK story:
Every year, almost 50,000 girls under 18 fall pregnant, leading critics to claim that government-led efforts to encourage safer sex are backfiring. The number who conceive is at its highest level since a multi-million-pound teenage pregnancy crackdown almost a decade ago.

As a result, Britain tops the league table of teenage mothers in western Europe, despite also having a record number of school-age abortions.

This comes despite the Government investing more than £150 million in an attempt to stem the tide of conceptions - and pledging to cut teenage pregnancy rates by half by the end of this decade.

I can't imagine reading this analysis in a mainstream US paper:
Amid a rising teenage population, the conception rate has dropped by only 11 per cent since 1998, in stark contrast to the 50 per cent target. At the same time, the overall number of teenage pregnancies has gone up to more than 47,000 a year.

In the 1970s, rates were similar across western Europe, but while other states have had marked success in bringing down the numbers of pregnancies, Britain now has the highest teenage birth rate: six times that of Holland, four times that of Italy and three times higher than in France.

Government policies aimed at dealing with the problem have allowed girls to obtain standard contraceptive and morning-after pills at school, without the consent of their parents, while new proposals will allow them to go directly to pharmacists.

In the US, the media typically blame similar statistics on those dreaded abstinence educators.
Here are some of the experts quoted in the UK story:
Last night, critics said that Labour's policies had backfired and made girls feel increasingly under pressure to become sexually active at a younger age. Others expressed fears that national targets were powerless in the face of a popular culture in which youth was increasingly sexualised.

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust charity, said that the Government had allowed the "systematic removal of every restraint that used to act as a disincentive to under-age sex". There was no evidence that easy availability of contraception reduced teenage pregnancy rates, instead it added to pressure on young girls by normalising under-age sex, he said.

Mr Wells also attacked the Government's commitment to confidentiality policies about contraception which "kept parents in the dark about their children's sexual activity".

"The problems associated with teenage pregnancy will never be solved so long as the Government persists with its reliance on yet more contraception and sex education," he said. "What we need is a radical change away from a culture which has reduced sex to a casual recreational activity."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said that the Government's failure was rooted in an attempt to find "state-led solutions" to problems that needed to be tackled by families and communities. "Our research has shown that progress is only being made in the areas where people are relatively well-off, whereas in deprived areas the situation is often getting worse.

"What we actually need is for family-led organisations, and local communities and the voluntary sector to work together on these problems."

Anne Atkins, a social commentator, said the emphasis on sex education and contraception was giving young people the message that sex at a young age was inevitable. "The message may be intended to be 'when you have sex, use a condom', but what young people hear is the 'when you have sex' part," she said.

I wish we got this kind of coverage in the US.


Anonymous said...

you mean bitch i took sex ed and it was my choice to have a baby at 13 so shut up you 40 year old virgin!

Jennifer Roback Morse said...

So tell us how you are supporting yourself and your baby. Are you married? Is the baby's father helping? Are your parents helping? Do you have a job?
Just wondering.