Young and pregnant: a concept so “popular” that the topic itself became a show on MTV. So why is the “popularity” of young pregnancies and STDs such a shock factor for many people?
Maybe this shocks so many people because we live in south Georgia, a seemingly more conservative place where pregnancy is not related to popularity, but is supposed to be celebrated after marriage. At a young age, we are taught that abstinence was the best policy. Whether in school or in church, “just say no” or “true love waits” was the ideal goal of all sex education programs.
According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, even in 2008, the proposed fiscal year budget proposed $204 million for abstinence education. If adequate education on abstinence is being offered, why are the numbers of pregnancies and STDs in young people so high?
Well, phrases like “just say no” or “don’t do it” are unappealing, considering the rebellious appetite of young people. Similar to underage drinking, the more risqué something is, the more appeal that something seems to have. But it seems that the reduction in young people participating in sexual activity has occurred at a glacial pace. Over a period of 16 years, sexual activity in high school students decreased 16 percent, according to the 2007 survey of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.
Even with the decrease, Teenpregnancy.org says one-third of girls in the United States will become pregnant before the age of 20. Not only is pregnancy an issue, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is another factor that hangs over the heads of the sexually active. STDs are most prominent in people under the age of 25. In fact, according to Youngwomenshealth.org, two-thirds of all STDs can be found occurring in young people.
Since young people and sex are two elements that usually find each other in one way or another, abstinence-only education is no longer the best goal for sex education programs. Debates on whether to offer comprehensive sex education programs versus abstinence programs are major discussions today. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, abstinence-only education programs weren’t as successful as comprehensive education programs in decreasing sexual activity.
Whether waiting until marriage or practicing safe sex, young people should be aware of STDs and pregnancy at an early age. Comprehensive-based sex education is the best way to cover all areas so that young people are more aware of the consequences, but also know how to be safe. Sex educators should step out of the conservative box in the South and embrace what is actually happening. Furthermore, knowing that people 25 and under are more likely to be subject to STDs, protection should be a priority. The younger the education begins, the more likely the concept is to be understood. Since we can’t stop young adult pregnancy all together, we need a different approach to the education.
This editorial was written by Crissie Elrick (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it expresses the opinion of the entire editorial staff.