The Centers for Disease Control released a new report today that found that Mississippi “now has the nation’s highest teen pregnancy rate, displacing Texas and New Mexico for that lamentable title.” The report found that in 2006, the Mississippi teen pregnancy rate was over 60 percent higher than the national average and increased 13 percent since the year before.
While the new report does not explain why the state’s teen pregnancy rate is increasing, one reason may be the poor quality of its sex ed programs. As the Sexuality Information and Education Center explains, Mississippi focuses heavily on abstinence education and teachers are prohibited from demonstrating how to use contraceptives:
Mississippi schools are not required to teach sexuality education or sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV education. If schools choose to teach either or both forms of education, they must stress abstinence-until-marriage, including “the likely negative psychological and physical effects of not abstaining.” […]
If the school board authorizes the teaching of contraception, state law dictates that the failure rates and risks of each contraceptive method must be included and “in no case shall the instruction or program include any demonstration of how condoms or other contraceptives are applied.”
A reporter for ABC News’s Jackson, MS affiliate explained, “The Mississippi Department of Human Services says abstinence is the only birth control that is 100 percent effective. And that’s the only message teens need to hear.” Unfortunately, numerous studies show that abstinence-only education is not effective. As one study found:
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.
Further, a review by the House Oversight Committee found that “80% of the abstinence-only curricula…contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.”
Pregnant teens in Mississippi face few options. Access to facilities that provide abortions in that state is extremely limited. Indeed, because of an unusually effective anti-choice campaign in the legislature, only a single abortion clinic remains open in the state.