Sex education and contraceptives are not the key to reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, a new report from the UK found.
The report, which is to be published in the July 2017 volume of the Journal of Health Economics, analyzed “[t]he effect of spending cuts on teen pregnancy.” It found that while sex ed and contraceptive provisions in the UK were cut between 2008 and 2013, the teenage pregnancy rate fell by 42.6 percent — its lowest level in nearly 50 years.
In 1999, Britain had one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe. The government decided that their solution to this problem would be to increase spending to create a robust sex ed program which would give teenagers information about and easy access to birth control.
However, in 2008, in response to the financial crash, the UK considered eliminating funding from its sex ed program. Although the proposal was met with predictions that such action would cause an immediate increase in teenage pregnancy rates, the cuts were nevertheless made.
After nearly a decade, as this new study discovered, it can be seen that these funding cuts did have a dramatic impact — teen pregnancy rates actually diminished during the period that followed. In fact, the steepest declines in the number of teenage pregnancies occurred where sex ed budgets were cut the most aggressively.
This study confirms what many previous studies have found: in the absence of sex ed programs and easy access to contraceptives, teenage pregnancy rates decrease, rather than increase.
The researchers, David Paton of the Nottingham University Business School and Liam Wright of the University of Sheffield, explained why sex ed programs meant to reduce teenage programs are often actually counterproductive:
Put simply, birth control will reduce the risk of pregnancy for sex acts which would have occurred anyway, but may increase the risk among teenagers who are induced by easier access to birth control either to start having sex or to have sex more frequently.
Sex-education programs serve to normalize teen sexual activity for unmarried teens and young adults. At the same time, these programs fail to even present the option of abstinence until marriage as an option. As a result, these programs actually increase teens risk of nonmarital pregnancy as seen recently here in the U.S.
Contrary to what proponents of secular sex education programs claim, by normalizing sexual behavior, sex ed and easy access to birth control actually increase a teenage girl’s likelihood of becoming pregnant. When girls are taught how to easily acquire contraceptives and morning after pills, they are more likely to engage in sexual behavior and are consequently more likely to become pregnant.
Lawmakers and educators here in the US should pay heed to this finding, which has in it a twofold solution for decreasing teenage pregnancy rates and simultaneously saving taxpayer dollars.