Texas Battling Slow Progress in Reduction of Teen Pregnancy Rate

Even though the national teen birthrate has dropped 52% from 1991 to 2012, some states are less successful than others in reducing their numbers, reports Corrie MacLaggan for The Texas Tribune.

Texas is among the top five states with the highest teenage birthrate in the US behind Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, so while it has dropped 43% between 1991 and 2012, it’s still fairing worse than most states.

Texas does not require schools to teach sex education. However, if the schools do offer it, the state requires them to approach the class with abstinence as the primary method of birth control. The majority of schools follow this method. Only 25.4% of schools teach contraception as part of the curriculum.  Governor Rick Perry’s office attributes the drop to the state’s abstinence program.   

“Teen pregnancy is a multifaceted issue with many contributing factors,” a spokesman for Perry, Travis Considine, said. Among those factors, advocates said, are race, ethnicity and economic status.

President of Healthy Futures of Texas, Dr. Janet Realini disagrees with Perry’s office. She believes that along with other factors, ineffective sex education is a big reason why Texas has a comparatively high teen birth rate.

“It’s this mentality that we’re Texas, we do it our way, we ignore science and kind of go with our gut,” said David Wiley, a professor of health education at Texas State University in San Marcos. “That Wild West mentality about public policy is not helpful.”

The states that have seen the biggest decline include the likes of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware, reports The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

California has very similar demographics to Texas, but it was able to cut its teenage birth rate by 64%. Sex education is not required in California, but education on HIV and medically accurate information on condoms, contraception and abstinence are required.

Jonathan Sanez, president of Texas Values, doesn’t think they should compare their progress to another state. He argues that California has a higher abortion rate than Texas. He believe the real problem is the “glamorization of sexual activity”.