Sex ed (minus birth control) for all!

Nearly all U.S. teens are taught about the birds and the bees -- but contraceptives are often left out

Published September 15, 2010 6:40PM (EDT)

Today seems a day of good news psych-outs. Earlier this morning, there was the encouraging finding that Americans increasingly accept same-sex couples as real families -- with the post-script that 30 percent still rank gays as less than pets. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is releasing a new study showing that nearly all U.S. teenagers receive formal sex education. Except, only two-thirds have actually been schooled in birth control methods. Which is to say: Ignore the headlines about the total triumph of sex education, because the one-third of teens being left in the dark about contraceptives are not getting true sex education.

The CDC report, which is based on in-person interviews with 2,767 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19, found that kids were more likely to be taught about how to say "no" to sex and the dangers of STDs than about how to use birth control -- including condoms, which might actually help prevent said STDs. Unsurprisingly, boys were less likely than girls to be taught about contraceptives. The glass-half-full view, though, is that 62 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls did learn about birth control by the time they graduated high school. 

The issue here isn't that it's bad for teenagers to be coached on how to say "no" to sex or to be lectured on the very real health risks of getting busy. Those things are essential to sex education -- but so too is birth control. When the CDC reports that nearly all U.S. teenagers receive comprehensive, fact-based sex education, then we can really celebrate.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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