Senators Ellis, Van de Putte and Representative Castro: Let’s Do What Works for Teens

(AUSTIN) — On the heels of another report demonstrating the failure of abstinence-only education, State Senator Rodney Ellis (D–Houston), State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D–San Antonio) and State Representative Joaquin Castro (D–San Antonio) today filed SB 852/HB 1624, “Education Works,” legislation to ensure Texas teens get complete, accurate information about sexual health.

A Center for Disease Control report released in October showed that, even as teen pregnancy rates declined in the United States, the Texas teen pregnancy rate continues to be one of the highest in the country. The CDC indicates the U.S. as a whole is showing a downward trend in teen pregnancies, but regional disparities remain. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, for instance, 2008 birth rates were less than 25 per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19. In the same year, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas all had rates topping 60 per 1,000 teens.

A report by the Texas Freedom Network found that 94 percent of Texas schools teach abstinence-only sexual education, and in many cases are giving students inaccurate and misleading information. Texas has the 3rd highest teen birth rate in the nation with 63.4 births per 1,000. In contrast, the national teen birth rate is 41 births per 1,000.

“The status quo is simply not working,” said Ellis. “Texas needs to be doing more for our teens. Teen pregnancy costs us $1 billion annually and contributes to lack of school readiness, poor educational outcomes, high dropout rates, and Texas’s high poverty rate. The ‘Education Works’ plan ensures that teens have access to comprehensive, evidence-based and age-appropriate education about sexual health. Only through honest information will teens have the tools they need for responsible decision-making and disease prevention.”

“To continue Texas’ abstinence-until-marriage ‘education’ our students are receiving in schools is a folly,” said Van de Putte. “Texas’ pregnancy statistics don’t lie. SB 852 offers students a comprehensive approach to sexual education. It is imperative for our students to receive proper, accurate, and effective instruction to ensure they make wise choices with regards to their sexual behavior.”

“One of the goals of the bill is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies among teens across Texas,” stated Representative Castro. “This bill addresses abstinence in addition to providing a comprehensive and evidence-based curriculum about sexual health and relationships that will teach students how to make healthy life choices,” said Representative Castro.

The Education Works bill will help protect teens from a pregnancy by ensuring that when they receive sex education they get complete, evidence-based and age-appropriate information. Under current law, the Texas Education Code does not require public schools to teach sexual education. If they do choose to teach it must be abstinence-focused, and instruction about contraceptives should be implied in terms of how often they fail. The Education Works Act would require schools that teach sex education to provide evidence-based, age-appropriate information that emphasizes the importance of abstinence as the only 100% effective method of avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy, while also teaching about contraceptive methods to avoid STIs and pregnancy.

In 2008, the Texas teen birth rate stood at 63.4 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, compared to the national average of 41 births. For nearly two decades the Texas teen birth rates have been higher than the national average. Texas currently has the third highest teen birth rate in the nation, behind only Mississippi and New Mexico. Unfortunately, Texas has the highest rate of repeat births to teens.

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