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Teen Pregnancies On The Rise Despite Abstinence-Only Education

May 19, 2008

Nashville, TN – It's "Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month," and advocates are working to turn around a rising trend of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, both nationwide and in Tennessee. Advocates say a comprehensive sex education program is the best approach to arming teens with the information they need. They say the federal policy of teaching abstinence-only doesn't do the job.

Cecile Richards is national president of Planned Parenthood. She says the last few years have seen a rise in teen pregnancies, and the Center for Disease Control reports one in five teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection.

"We've got to do a lot better by our young people, and I think it's been a wake-up call for health care providers and the general public."

She believes sex education and disease prevention is a health issue, and that investing in prevention is the best policy.

Critics argue abstinence should be the only message teens get about sex -- but so far 17 states have refused federal funds, saying abstinence-only programs don't work. Tennessee's schools continue to use the abstinence-only curriculum.

Mark Huffman with Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee notes it's important to look beyond normal fears about teen pregnancy and disease.

"What the science tells us is that if we are going to achieve abstinence among teens, the best, most effective way to do that is to back programs that teach both abstinence and protection."

More information on "Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month" is available at Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, www.ppmet.org.

Barbara Dab/Eric Mack, Public News Service - TN