Everything really is bigger in Texas. This month's Texas Monthly reports that the state is the largest recipient of federal money for abstinence education -- more than $4.5 million annually -- but ranks first in the nation in teenage births. Almost a quarter of those births are not the girl's first delivery.
Failing to see a correlation between sex education that heavily emphasizes abstinence and high rates of teen births, Texas continues to endorse abstinence education as the primary way to address sexual activity among its teens. The word "condom" makes an appearance in only one of the four high school health textbooks approved by the state. This glaring omission is in part rooted in the Texas State Board of Education's power to dictate the content of health textbooks. In 1994, ultraconservative board members objected to an image of a brief case-touting woman with her toddler by her side, as well as illustrated demonstrations of breast and testicular self-exams. You know, because working moms and bodies are gross! While the Board can no longer edit these texts at will, it does issue the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Guidelines, and can adopt books that are ideologically in step with them. In this way, the Board is still able to put its stamp of approval on what students are exposed to in classrooms.
By fervently championing abstinence sex education, Texas has, perhaps unwittingly, created for itself the very problems abstinence only hopes to thwart. As the teenage population is projected to increase over the next 10 years, the Texas Department of State Health Services anticipates that this wholly inadequate brand of instruction will contribute to "serious implications for the patterns and trends in adolescent pregnancy." In the absence of a comprehensive sex education curriculum, Texas' teenagers -- and teenagers in states with similar programs -- will continue to be exceptionally vulnerable to the realities of how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and the state will continue to raise generations of sexually illiterate adults.