Sex Education Moves in the Right Direction
Last week our Congress passed the 2010 Appropriations bill, which takes some important steps in the right direction for New Mexicans. We applaud the bill’s elimination of ineffective abstinence-
Congress’ shift on funding for sex education makes sound fiscal sense. New Mexico ranks second in the country for teen births and third in the country for teen pregnancy. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, New Mexico taxpayers spent at least $86 million in 2004 alone on teen childbearing costs. Most of those costs are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen moms, such as Medicaid and SCHIP, child welfare, and lost tax revenue due to decreased earnings. Teen moms are less likely to seek prenatal care, and babies of teen moms are more likely to be low-birth weight. Sadly, 29 percent of children under 6 years old live in poverty in New Mexico.
Multiple studies have produced compelling evidence that students who participate in abstinence-only sex education neither stop nor delay sexual activity; yet, they are less prepared to prevent pregnancy and disease than those who attend comprehensive sex education programming. Between 1991 and 2004, New Mexicans have reduced our teen birth rate by 24 percent, and thereby reduced our associated tax burden an estimated $24 million in 2004 alone. This reduction is largely due to comprehensive sex education efforts and access to contraception, and is to be commended. But we can do better by our kids.
One in three teens receives no sex education at all before initiating sexual activity. And over 9 in 10 Americans have sex before marriage—and have for generations. Comprehensive sex education is not only fiscally responsible, but it is our moral imperative to prepare New Mexico’s youth to make responsible choices.