Debate over contraceptive methods, health care and abortion rights is more heated than ever. Is education the solution?
Each state has unique laws regarding sex education in public schools. Oklahoma does not mandate sex education but each Oklahoma school district may create courses regarding sexual health. The content of these courses varies greatly; some Oklahoma students are very well informed about sexuality, health and their own bodies, but too many others are not offered the same opportunity. The Tulsa school board recently approved a comprehensive program aimed at preventing pregnancy that requires multiple courses. Unfortunately though, there are many more districts with no sex education courses at all. Many parents say it’s a matter of privacy, and that parents should talk to their children. Legislation to change sex education programs has gained almost no traction over the years, but data shows we could use it.
U.S. Health and Human Services surveys show Oklahoma teens are not practicing abstinence, as about 50% of Oklahoma teens report being sexually active (slightly higher than the national average of 46%). Oklahoma has consistently maintained one of the five highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. In Oklahoma 47.8/1000 teenagers will give birth, as opposed to the 31.3/1000 teenagers nation-wide. This is a problem for many obvious reasons, but specifically teen pregnancy is a problem for teen’s educational and career prospects.
Teen parents struggle to finish their educations. The Tulsa School Board cited the low graduation rates of pregnant teens as a major reason for their sex education overhaul. Teen parents can experience gaps in education and they are less likely to gain higher education degrees, which can bring a lifetime of consequences, including poverty. Poverty works like a cycle, so many children of teen parents are also at a higher risk of experiencing unintended pregnancies and falling into poverty themselves. Today almost 20% of Oklahoma lives in poverty. One of the most effective means of ending the cycle of poverty is through careful family planning- a feat accomplishable through sexual education.
We all know the old saying, “knowledge is power” but in this situation it has never been truer. Oklahoma is uniquely positioned to show the need for comprehensive sex education. Sex education can change young Oklahoman’s futures for the better because isn't just about "how not to get pregnant.” It's about public health, it's about positive body image, it's about consent, it's about STI prevention, but most importantly it's about empowerment. We want our youth to have every advantage possible, so why deny them knowledge about their own bodies? Oklahoma youths deserve the chance to make informed decisions, so let's empower them to do so!
Email, write or call your senators and representatives to tell them you want to empower Oklahoma youth through comprehensive sex education!