It hasn’t always been this way, but somehow reproductive rights have become a partisan issue. Better health education benefits all on the political spectrum—from conservatives to liberals.
Recently, FITSNews posted an article declaring “Government-Funded Abstinence Education: Not Working." As I read through, I was mentally high fiving blogger Will Folks for presenting the facts of how SC taxpayer money is spent on an ineffective sex education program:
“From 2006-2010, Heritage Community Services has received nearly $12 million…to promote abstinence education across the state of South Carolina. So…how’s that taxpayer-funded investment paying off? Not well.” (*high five*Preach it, brother!)
“According to the statistics provided by …[SCDHEC], the percentage of live births to single mothers in the state of South Carolina continues to climb. In 2005, 43.4 percent of all live births were to single mothers. Five years later, that percentage had increased to 46.9 percent.” (*high five*--not for the increase in numbers… for the clear presentation of fact that abstinence education isn’t working!)
As Sic Willie correctly points out, it just doesn’t make sense to persist in a program that has NO evidence of success.
But Folks and I diverge on his final conclusion:
“South Carolina has no business whatsoever funding any sort of sex education—abstinence-themed or otherwise.”
Hold up, what?
I might not be able to change your mind, Sic Willie, (in a Twitter exchange he told @ktzbee “well I don't think k-12 is a core function either, but I am kind of an insufferable nut job”), but I’m going to give it a shot any way!
In a previous post Folks cites economics as one reason government should stay out of the sex ed fray.
However, if you’re a fiscal conservative, you should care all the more about comprehensive sex education.
In South Carolina we have the Comprehensive Health Education Act (CHEA—not to be confused with chia) which sets out to teach and encourage healthy choices among South Carolina students. This includes things like teaching substance use & abuse prevention, accident prevention, and STD and pregnancy prevention (this last one beginning in grade 6). The idea is that if we teach people the basics of how their bodies work and how to protect themselves from diseases or unintended pregnancies, then they’ll make better, healthier choices.
So part of the justification for comprehensive sex education goes along with one of the basic assumptions of democracy: educate people so they can make the best choices.
But economics are another solid justification: treating STDs and attending to unintended teen pregnancies are expensive and preventable costs to South Carolina taxpayers. Let’s look at teen pregnancy as an example.
Teen childbearing in South Carolina cost taxpayers at least $197 million in 2008. The costs associated with teen pregnancies according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy for South Carolina taxpayers include things like:
• $34 million for public health care (Medicaid and CHIP);
• $23 million for child welfare;
• $24 million for increased rates of incarceration of children of teen mothers;
• $69 million in lost tax revenue, due to decreased earnings and spending.
One commonsense, relatively simple solution to this costly issue is to teach comprehensive sex education curricula that has been proven to produce healthy behaviors in teens.
One of my favorite SC writers Amy Lazenby, who also writes for FITSNews, tweeted to us with two responses: "1 of 2: I disagree with Mr. Folks' assessment. #SexEd is a public health issue and should be funded," and "2 of 2: Prevention does save $, but not everything good saves $ - that shouldn't be the only standard by which we measure.” True. But in this case, what is good and what saves money coincide.
Our issue is your issue, FITSNews! If you want to save South Carolina taxpayers money, then we should invest in effective comprehensive sex education.