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A new study from researchers at the Guttmacher Institute analyzing the National Survey of Family Growth finds that the percentage of teens who received sex education dropped significantly between 2006 and 2013, particularly for those living in nonmetropolitan areas. This study should serve as a wake-up call that the country can and must do better in giving young people the sex education they need and deserve.

“At a time when there are 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases every year and rates of unintended pregnancy among teens remain the highest of any industrialized country, the fact that schools are teaching less about birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, and saying no to sex is alarming.”

—Leslie Kantor, PhD, MPH, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Declines in Instruction

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that between 2006–2010 and 2011–2013, there were:

  • Significant declines in the formal instruction that teen girls received about birth control (70% to 60%), saying no to sex (89% to 82%), sexually transmitted diseases (94% to 90%), and HIV/AIDS (89% to 86%)
  • Significant decline in teen boys’ instruction about birth control (61% to 55%)
  • 21% of females and 35% of males didn’t receive any information about birth control from their parents or in school.

“We know teens need sex education to stay healthy, yet the United States is moving in the wrong direction. Sex education can make a real difference in adolescents’ overall health and well-being. The fact that young people are being deprived of information critical to their sexual health is unacceptable." 

—Leslie Kantor, PhD, MPH, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Planned Parenthood's Role in Sex Education

As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood offers programs for teens and parents across the country to try to fill this gap in school-based sex education. Planned Parenthood is available throughout the country to partner with schools in providing high-quality sex education.

Planned Parenthood:

  • Provides education and outreach to 1.5 million people every year in schools and communities across the country, which gives young people the information and skills they need to stay healthy
  • Is committed to reaching people wherever they are with information and health care
  • Has websites in English and Spanish that provide accurate, nonjudgmental information about sexual and reproductive health to 60 million visitors each year
  • Offers digital tools for teens and young adults to help people make responsible decisions — including an innovative Chat/Text program, which is open 91 hours per week and has served over 500,000 users

What's at Stake for Sex Education in the 2016 Election

Sex education and birth control helped bring U.S. teen pregnancy rates to historic lows, but the U.S. still has the highest rate of unintended teen pregnancy of developed countries. There's also big disparities: Lesbian, bisexual and gay youth experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and STDs than their heterosexual peers; and young people of color experience disparities in sexual and reproductive health including higher rates of unintended pregnancy and STDs. What's worse: Opponents of sex education are keeping young people at risk by insisting that schools teach abstinence only.

They're pushing abstinence only despite the fact that a majority of Americans support sex education: Two-thirds think students should get birth control information at school, and 83% support the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

It’s time to reject ineffective abstinence-only programs and invest in evidence-based sex education that gives accurate information, includes LGBTQ youth and teaches healthy relationships. This coming election, Americans must elect leaders who demand that young people get the tools they need to make informed choices about relationships, sex, and pregnancy. 


Tags: Sex Ed, Election 2016

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