Despite Sex Ed, Kids In Red States Are Still Having Lots Of Babies

sex edThe push to get comprehensive sex ed in schools is still a controversial one for some reason. With some people still arguing that Planned Parenthood’s information about sex encourages promiscuity and oral sex, clearly not all are for giving young people the tools to navigate and negotiate sex safely. But some researchers from Washington University in St. Louis recently discovered that even when sex education is provided in more conservative states, the birth rate among teenagers remains the same.

Researchers found no decline in teen birth rates once these researchers controlled for “state characteristics,” which they define as religion and abortion politics. They conclude that conservative values drown out all the information about safe sex, and actually in turn keep the birth rate high:

The findings suggest that the social structure of the state, such as the degree of conservatism, can undermine the effect of the sex curricula…The apparent irony is that states with higher religiosity rankings and greater political conservatism had higher adolescent birthrates.

The WUSL researchers have a few theories as to why red state kids are still finding themselves with a kid of their own: students may very well be receiving a “watered-down version” of the lesson,  are less willing or less able to have access to abortions, or are simply ignoring the information all together. While I suspect sound information about sex is often being packaged to these kids with the garden variety scare tactics such as “Birth control gives you cancer!” or “The pill will make you sterile!” or “Condoms don’t protect against AIDS!” (which can account for kids disregarding the information), cultural differences within our own country also give us reason to pause.

My colleague Mollie Hemingway mentioned to me that a teenager bound for Sarah Lawrence at 17 years old probably isn’t the same kind of kid who wants a baby of her own by her 16th birthday. And even though both of those are clearly choices for young people — and also their parents — to make, I have to wonder if kids would still would make them if they weren’t raised to find information to the contrary somehow devious.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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