What state has the worst teen birth rate, the 10th highest AIDS rate and the 7th worst syphilis rate in the country?
Hint – it’s the same state that brought us George Bush and spends more on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs than any other state.
That’s right – Texas.
In June 2008, federal statistics showed that the majority, 52.9 percent, of Texas students in ninth through 12th grades had sexual intercourse. That’s compared to 47.8 percent nationally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that young people in Texas are less likely to use condoms.
Yet, Texas actually spent $17 million last year on abstinence-only programs to promote virginity until marriage. Talk about denying reality!
This week, Texas has the distinction of hosting Netroots Nation – the national gathering of progressive bloggers from all across the country. These are the people who can make or break issues and campaigns.
Bloggers have taken President Bush and the Democratic leadership in Congress to task for continuing to support failed abstinence-only programs that research shows have no impact on teen sexual behavior.
It’s no wonder bloggers have even raised "abstinence-only" questions to #5 on the Netroots Nation "Ask the Speaker" (as in Nancy Pelosi) site.
Yes – the democratic-controlled Congress is part of the problem. Just last week, Democrats voted to extend funding for these ineffective Title V abstinence-only programs for 12 months. And last year, the House of Representatives, in total disregard for a congressionally mandated report that showed the programs don’t work, tried to increase funding for abstinence-only programs by $28 million. That’s right – increase!
So it is significant that Netroots Nation is meeting in Texas this week – home of some of the worst adolescent sexual health outcomes in the country.
Public schools in Texas are not required to offer sex education, but those that do must make the lessons abstinence-focused. So after spending more than $117 million over two decades on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, the state of Texas has the following adolescent health outcomes (courtesy of the National Vital Statistics Reports):
- In Texas, 220 teen women aged 15 to 19 become pregnant every single day.
- Texas’s teen pregnancy rate is 101 per 1,000. The national rate is 84. Only MS, NM, AZ, and NV have higher rates.
- Texas has the worst teen birth rate among 15 to 19 year olds at 64 per 1,000. The national rate is 41 per 1,000.
- The teen birth rate in Texas for 15-19-year olds only dropped by 18% between 1992-2000 while the national rate dropped by 24 percent. Texas ranks 4th worst in decline, after WY, NE, and ND.
- Texas has 7th worst syphilis rate and 17th worst gonorrhea rate in the country.
- Among states with available data, Texas has the lowest percentage of teens that report using condoms at last sex (56 percent; HI and NM were lower).
It’s time that Texas legislators and Congress to stand up for what works and end funding for these failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Progressive bloggers and young people are paving the way toward holding Congress on both sides of the aisle accountable.