By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
The Christian Action League was thrilled last week to hear and then share the good news that teen pregnancy rates are continuing to decline in North Carolina according to new data from the State Center for Health Statistics, but less than happy to see promoters of so-called “comprehensive” sex education stepping in to take credit for the decline.
“In 2009, legislators changed the state’s sexual health education requirements to more closely align with evidence-based practices and parent opinion,” reported the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina in its Dec. 7 press release, adding a quote from Executive Director Kay Phillips who said “North Carolina’s combined strategy of helping at-risk teens break the cycle of teen pregnancy while providing all young people with basic education and care has given us incredible results.”
However, the “incredible results” of decreasing pregnancy rates among 15- to 19-year-olds can’t be credited to 2009 changes in the sex ed program since those changes didn’t even take effect until the 2010-2011 school year, after these students had already completed their sixth- through ninth-grade healthy living classes.
“The law went into effect for the 2010-2011 school year, so at the most we’re talking about four months during 2010 that the amended law was in effect,” explained Jere Royall, legal counsel for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “The stats that they are pointing to are for 15- to 19-year-olds, who were taught under the un-amended sex education law. If any credit is going to be given it should go to the un-amended law because that is what the state was using during the time.”
Further, a look at long-term pregnancy rates shows that the percentage of 15- to19-year-old girls becoming pregnant has decreased fairly steadily since 1990 when it reached an all-time high of 105.4 per 1,000.
Royall said the Abstinence Until Marriage curriculum became the standard for North Carolina during the 1996-97 school year, which may have been a factor in helping the pregnancy rates drop by six percentage points two years later, between 1998 and 1999.
“That’s when we saw a significant decline, which has continued with the exception of a short period when it leveled off and then began to drop again,” he said.
Between 1990 and 2010, the pregnancy rate has declined by nearly 56 percent.
“If the dropping pregnancy rate is going to be attributed to sex education, let’s make sure credit goes where it is due,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Our hope is that it will continue to drop since, even under the Healthy Youth Act, abstinence until marriage is supposed to be maintained as the expectation for Tar Heel students.”
Dr. Creech said school systems eager to embrace the so-called “comprehensive” sex ed programs that would supplant the abstinence focus should remember that the new law requires that students still complete the Abstinence Until Marriage curriculum before moving to classes that include discussions of less effective but FDA-approved methods of birth control and STD (sexually transmitted disease) risk reduction.
“We would also remind parents that they have the right to opt their children out of any portion that they feel is inappropriate for them,” Dr. Creech added.
The Raleigh News and Observer attributed the drop in the teen pregnancy rate, which could save the state significant funds, to a number of factors including a lower rate of teens having sex and increased use of contraception. For the first time in nearly 30 years, a federal study showed that the majority of U.S. teens have not had sex, according to the N&O article.
Wake County educator Ann Dishong told the newspaper that schools there, where the teen pregnancy rate is 35 percent, still emphasize abstinence as the best method of birth control and STI avoidance.
“It’s important for students to hear that abstinence is a very honorable choice; it’s a socially acceptable choice,” she said.
The Rev. Creech reiterated the importance of abstinence based education and the benefits of teen abstinence which go well beyond lower pregnancy and STD rates.
“Research shows that teens who wait are happier, do better in school and are more likely to attend and graduate from college,” he said. “Not surprisingly, God’s plan for reserving sex for marriage offers perks that no other forms of birth control can match.”