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Sex education linked to higher teen pregnancy rates

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More sex education is linked to higher rates of teenage pregnancy, a new study has shown.

It found that teenage pregnancy rates have declined in areas where the government has cut spending on sex education and birth control.

The decline was steepest in areas where councils slashed their teenage pregnancy budgets most aggressively.

The results follow calls for relationships and sex education (RSE) to be made compulsory in schools.


David Paton, of the Nottingham University Business School, and Liam Wright, of the University of Sheffield, conducted the research.

It examined the effect of budget cuts by local authorities on providing the morning-after pill and holding sex education classes in schools, after the financial crash in 2008.

Between 2009 and 2014, pregnancy rates fell by 42.6 per cent to their lowest levels since 1969.

"There are arguments to suggest that the impact [of the cuts] on teenage pregnancy may be not as bad as feared and, indeed, that spending on projects relating to teenage pregnancy may even be counterproductive," Paton and Wright wrote in the Journal of Health Economics.

They added that sex education likely encourages sexual activity amongst young people who otherwise may have abstained: "Put simply, birth control will reduce the risk of pregnancy for sex acts which would have occurred anyway, but may increase the risk among teenagers who are induced by easier access to birth control either to start having sex or to have sex more frequently."

'Flies in the face of sanity'

Writing for the Daily Mail, Jill Kirby commented on these findings:

"Apart from grotesquely robbing children of their innocence, this approach to sex education even for older children flies in the face of sanity.

"And if you start teaching children about sex at a younger and younger age, the inevitable consequence will be that they go out and try it at a younger and younger age.

"This is because little of this sex education is accompanied by moral strictures or any message of abstinence or restraint. So all of these various courses end up encouraging teenagers not only to think about sex, but also to think about it as something attractive."

Supports previous studies

The results support the arguments consistently made by Christian Concern and other groups, that providing more sex education is having a harmful effect on young people.

In 2004, a report by the Family Education Trust revealed that teenage pregnancy rates were rising in areas with the most teenage pregnancy projects.

In November 2016, a Cochrane review of studies reviewing school-based interventions on sex education found that sex education programmes do not reduce pregnancy and STIs among the young. In fact, they have no effect on adolescent pregnancy and STI rates.

Liberal norms 'not in youngsters' best interests'

When the Cochrane review was published, Christian Medical Fellowship's Philippa Taylor commented:

"I have previously warned that current sexual health strategies for tackling teenage pregnancies are primarily based on three false presuppositions: that contraception is safe, that youngsters will actually use it and that abstinence is impossible.

"The liberal, value-free norms promoted in most sex education programmes (there is no right or wrong in teenage sexual activity, just choice) are not in the best interests of youngsters."

Philippa continued:

"Ultimately, unpalatable as it is for those who do not hold to Christian truths, nothing will work as effectively as the biblical model for sex: save it for marriage."


Related Links:
Sex education funding cut drives decline in teenage pregnancies (Times) (£)
Jill Kirby - When will we wake up to the fact that sex education doesn't cut teen pregnancies?' (Mail)
Sex education programmes are largely ineffectual and do not reduce teen pregnancy or STI rates, says large new research review - (Philippa Taylor, CMF)