By Brittany Pack, member of the SWARM youth council and Senior at Converse College
Recently, I went to speak with my representative about reproductive health education, and I was very disappointed with his response. At first it seemed promising. I told him how abstinence-only education fails communities, gave him a packet of cited information that backed everything I was saying, and explained to him that just because he supports people being abstinent until marriage does not mean that he should be to force-feeding it to everyone.
He asked if he could ask me a question… I was excited, because I thought he was going to attempt to have an educated conversation with me. I started answering some of his questions and it quickly became clear that we were not on the same page. He told me that he was glad I was so passionate about a cause; however, I picked the wrong cause to be passionate about.
He said abstinence was the only way to prevent teen pregnancy and STIs. Yes, if everyone in the entire world practiced abstinence then the rates would be lower, but that is simply impossible. He asked me what the only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancy. He said abstinence.
I do not agree, sir. South Carolina as a state has attempted abstinence-only since for decades, but it yet to work! Crazy can be defined as attempting to do something over and over again and failing, but continuing to do the same thing expecting a different result. You know it’s not going to work, but you continue to attempt it without changing anything. Sirs, this is a message of all South Carolinian legislators, to continue to teach abstinence-only sex education is crazy. We’ve tried over and over again, year after year, for the past three decades, and we’re getting the same results— uneducated people getting pregnant outside the “fortified walls of marriage” or marriage couples that have a child or three and then get divorced. Poorly educated people cannot make healthy choices without knowing how to be healthy. Ignoring an entire biological system simply won’t stop young people from getting pregnant. You give them some scientific knowledge, teach them a thing or two about self-respect, and teach them to “Draw the Line and Respect the Line,” and you will see our $200,000,000 a year loss to teen pregnancy do down.
I think abstinence is a wonderful thing. It’s something I shared with the legislator that I practice, but it is a personal choice. I tried to explain to the representative that educating the youth with a comprehensive education is better than leaving out all the key parts of information. When we teach history, we don’t leave out the parts about one man killing another because we’re afraid that the children are going to go out into the hall and start shooting up the place. We don’t leave out information about how racism used to be, and arguably still is, a big problem in the State cause we’re afraid they youth are going to start race riots. We educate them. We encourage discovery amongst themselves so that they can see where they have the option to make the mistakes of the past generations, but they have been given the wonderful tool of knowledge and can therefore protect themselves and their community from such assaults happening again. Depriving the youth information about a topic that is life-changing, no strike that, life-creating is irresponsible and as has been seen in our state for pretty much its entire history. If South Carolina is going to ever leave the list of the top states with high pregnancy rates, high STI/HIV rates, high poverty, high crime, high dropout rates, high levels of families on assisted income, etcetera, we’ve got to let go of some of our flawed misconceptions. We have to learn a thing or two from our flawed past. We can’t attempt to change the future by only trying things from the past that haven’t failed. That would be crazy.
Humans are predictably unpredictable. If you can plan for the unpredictability, say by educating about contraceptives, you give people the tools they need to survive their most unpredictable years of their lives.