By Emily Stoner
We need to find a new way to talk about abortion. Discussion of it has been halted by arguments such as exactly at what moment life begins, forgoing practical applications with enigmatic moralism. Instead of lowering the abortion rate by banning abortion outright, an emphasis should be placed on methods of reducing the need for abortion in the first place.
Though strongly opposed by the Bush administration, the most successful way of reducing the abortion rate in the United States is through comprehensive sex education in schools, which effectively reduces the pregnancy rate. Since almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned and almost half of all unplanned pregnancies are aborted, this approach to abortion curbing obviously has a tangible effect on the number of abortions performed in the United States.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, formerly a research affiliate to Planned Parenthood and now a not-for-profit corporation for reproductive health research and public education, over one million abortions were performed in the United States in 2007. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies in 2005 ended in abortion. Since abortions are often the result of unintended pregnancies, people need to be better educated about birth control.
There has been a decline in abortions over the last couple of years,” said Robin Gaige, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood in N.Y. state. “These places have departed from the abstinence-only theory and have made a commitment to comprehensive sex ed in schools.”
Abstinence-only sex ed actually causes teen pregnancy rates to rise, which in turn causes abortion rates to increase. Teenagers in abstinence-only programs are told that condoms do not work and that the only way to be safe is to abstain from sex until marriage and to be monogamous from then on. In fact, a 2004 House of Representatives report titled “The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs” found that over 80 percent of the abstinence-only curricula contains false, misleading or distorted information about reproductive health. Studies have shown that the average age for a teenagers’ first sexual experience is 14.9 years for teens in both sex education programs. The only difference is that teens taking comprehensive sex ed are much more likely to use condoms.
“Saying ‘Don’t have sex’ simply doesn’t work,” Gaige said. “The problem lies with people who think abstinence-only is the way to go. Every rational person knows that that does not work, that approach. We need to educate our young people about contraception and prevention.”
In 2006, Bush cut funding for local schools, food stamps and health care for veterans. However, he increased spending on abstinence-only sex ed by $39 million, bringing the bill up to $206 million. While in office, Bush spent over $1 billion on funding for abstinence-only education, which teaches that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects. Fifty million dollars was budgeted in 2008 to give to states for including abstinence-only sex ed in their curriculums.
Even though all public schools could benefit from an increase in government funding, as of March 2008, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming rejected the money allocated for promoting abstinence in favor of teaching comprehensive sex ed in their public schools.
When rejecting abstinence-only sex ed funding, Maine turned down $165,000 — nearly a third of its sex ed budget — in favor of teaching comprehensive sex ed. While Maine was using abstinence-only programs, it had one of the highest rates of pregnancy among white teenagers in the nation. Since then it has had the steepest decline in numbers of teen pregnancies in the country. Maine also had a steep decline in abortion.
Even Christian, pro-life institutions such as the Ithaca Pregnancy Center advocate women having knowledge about contraceptives and pregnancy prevention in order to lower the abortion rate. Though they do not personally support abortion, they feel that women should be aware of all the options in front of them.
“The only true choice you can have is if you have all the possible information they can give you,” said Amy O’Brien, the center director for the Ithaca Pregnancy Center.
Emily Stoner is a sophomore journalism major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.