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In Alabama abstinence is the best form of birth control, except when it is not. Although the teenage pregnancy rate has dramatically decreased in the USA, Alabama remains a state where teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection are actually rising.
In a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Center for Health Statistics, teen pregnancy (and fertility rates overall) have decreased, dramatically.
"The provisional number of births for the United States in 2018 was 3,788,235, down 2% from 2017 and the lowest number of births in 32 years."
Furthermore, abortion rates in the United States have declined since legal abortion rates have been recorded beginning in the year 1969. The Centers for Disease Contol’s report from 2018 states a 24% decrease in the report of abortion over nine years from 2006 to 2015.
“From 2006 to 2015, the total number of reported abortions decreased 24% (from 842,855), the abortion rate decreased 26% (from 15.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years), and the abortion ratio decreased 19% (from 233 abortions per 1,000 live births). In 2015, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2006–2015).”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama is the top state in teen pregnancy.
Why does Alabama have the highest teen pregnancy rate in a country with a declining fertility rate? One reason is the inadequate scope of health education in the Alabama educational curriculum. The Alabama State Educational Curriculum states that sexual education is not mandatory. And, if sex education is offered, abstinence must be emphasized. It further states that sexual activity should occur only between married individuals.
"Sex Education The Code of Alabama states: (a) Any program or curriculum in the public schools in Alabama that includes sex education or the human reproductive process shall, as a minimum, include and emphasize the following: (1) Abstinence from sexual activity is the only completely effective protection against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when transmitted sexually. (2) Abstinence from sexual activity outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard for unmarried school-age persons."
So what happens to those children in Alabama who are raised by teenage parents? What kind of help does the state of Alabama provide for the babies born in that state? Writer Eric Taunton of the Birmingham Times shares the consequences in his 2018 piece, "Over 800,000 Alabamians live Below Poverty Line; sixth poorest state in the nation."
Taunton outlines that of these 800,000 residents, 250,000 are children, writing:
"In Alabama, 250,000 children live in poverty. Also, the overall child food insecurity rate is 22.5 percent, which is higher than the national average of 17.5 percent."
Therefore, Alabama is a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates, with no mandated sex education and a sex education platform that denies human experience; it has one of the highest concentrations of poverty in the country.
On Wednesday, May 15, 2019, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed the "Human Life Protection Act," banning abortion in Alabama punishable up to 99 years for any doctor convicted of performing the medical procedure. The law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
Governor Ivey explained why she signed the bill into law:
"To the bill's many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God."
If Alabamians value life so incredibly high, then why are they allowing the children in their state to live in abject poverty? Why do the people of Alabama deny the human sexual experience by either not teaching sex education and preaching abstinence only?
I am a teacher in upstate New York. I have never had to make the choice to have an abortion. I am one of the fortunate women in America who has not been pressured into sex, who has not been threatened into sex, and who has not been a victim of rape or incest. I also attended health classes and had sexual education in public school. My children will have the same education.
I would love to sip some sweet tea and listen to educators in Alabama. My questions are many, but I would listen because the conversation is desperately needed.
- How do your state laws impact your teaching?
- How do you teach in a state that doesn’t support sexual education and only preaches abstinence?
- How do you look at a twelve-year-old girl and think that she will have no choice regardless of the circumstances of her sexual encounters?
- How do you talk to your own children about sex?
- Do you support this law?
Let's have the difficult conversations. Where do we go from here, Alabama?