By Stephen Foster, Jr.
Long one of the most conservative states in the nation, Oklahoma is one state that has steadfastly refused to implement comprehensive sex education that includes contraception. Instead, Republicans in the state have advocated for abstinence-only plans that have been proven not to work time and time again. And because of that epic failure, one school district is defying the GOP.
In a move that is certain to draw the ire of the Christian Right, the Tulsa Public School district is ditching abstinence-only programs and will begin teaching comprehensive sex education to 7th, 9th, and 11th grade. And why is Tulsa doing this, you ask? Because abstinence-only is a total failure that has resulted in the state having the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, resulting in nearly half of all impregnated teens not graduating from high school. This, in turn, hurts Tulsa and the state because these young women don’t have the education they need to get good paying jobs which causes a higher need for welfare.
According to the Tax Foundation, Oklahoma ranks 15th in the nation in the amount of federal dollars it receives compares to what it pays in taxes. For every dollar Oklahoma sends to Washington DC in taxes, the red state gets $1.36. That makes Oklahoma a welfare state, and it only gets worse as more teenagers are forced to drop out of school because of an unwanted pregnancy. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has spent millions on abstinence-only programs over the years. Such programs have failed miserably and only contribute to Oklahoma’s status as a welfare state.
Tulsa Public Schools spokesman Steve Mayfield told Tulsa’s Channel 9 News:
Forty-four percent of students who become pregnant or who are married at that age fail to graduate from high school, and that’s something that affects them for the rest of their life.
Many of these teens end up being single mothers who lack the resources and education to get a well-paying job that helps them raise their child. About a quarter of young unmarried mothers end up in poverty, and poverty is itself a cause of teen pregnancy. It’s a vicious cycle that Republicans don’t seem to care about. But educators in Tulsa seek to end it by actually teaching sex education that really does work.
Oklahoma Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Director Kim Schultz concurs with Mayfield and applauds the district’s switch.
We really view the teen pregnancy prevention program as a drop out prevention program,” Schulzt said. “This is really going to help students stay in school, finish school, go onto college, get good jobs, make Tulsa a better place to live. I think, ignoring the issue is something we don’t have the luxury of doing any longer.
When he spoke to the Tulsa World, Mayfield said that as far as he knows, Oklahoma schools have always taught abstinence-only and have never taught students how to properly protect themselves from HIV, STDs, or unwanted pregnancies.
I can’t remember it ever being a topic in TPS – even embedded in a biology class or something before,” Mayfield said. “I’ve read the entire curriculum, and the first priority is abstinence. The key to this that I really like is it shows you the HIV and disease rates. Kids don’t think in those terms, but they need to.
Study after study proves that abstinence-only doesn’t work to lower teen pregnancy rates and the spread of HIV. Statistics show that conservative states that rely solely on abstinence-only programs have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. That includes Oklahoma. Furthermore, when states implement comprehensive sex education in their schools, the teen pregnancy rate tumbles accordingly, like it did in California this year.
Abstinence-only programs also cause higher abortion rates, which is something that Republicans don’t want to hear, but it’s true. When teen girls don’t have a clue how to protect themselves when they have sex, they end up with an unwanted pregnancy which leads to more abortions. If teens were to learn about contraception in school and have easier access to it, they can prevent unwanted pregnancies, thus preventing the very abortions that conservatives claim to despise. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reveals that when women have free access to contraception, unwanted pregnancies and the abortion rate plummets.
Clearly, Tulsa Public Schools is taking action to halt the rising teen pregnancy rate in Oklahoma. The question is, will Republicans follow suit and replace abstinence-only programs with comprehensive sex ed or will they stand in the way…as usual.