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April 15, 2008

Citizens in Houston are trying to understand how two teen pregnancies ended badly in public restrooms.The Houston Chronicle first reported on this story last week, about an eighth grader who didn’t know she was pregnant until she miscarried in an airplane. “We are dealing with a scared child at this point,” said Keith Lovelace, an investigator with the Houston Police Department.Three days later another story about a fourteen-year-old made headlines: this time the teen in question gave birth to a full-term baby, and allegedly tried to flush it down the toilet of a school bathroom.The intensity of these tragedies, which followed one after another, have led to a lot of soul searching in Texas, where state law says schools that teach sex education must stress abstinence as the preferred option.Texas received $17,345,764 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for the fiscal year that ended on September 30th, 2006 — more than any other state. Yet teen pregnancy data released last year by the non-profit group Child Trends found Texas ranked first among teenage birth rates, with 62 births per 1,000 girls 15-19 years old, and fifth in the nation when it comes to the number of teens in that same age group who become pregnant.”It’s been that way for years. We’re seeing no improvement,” said Rochelle Tafolla, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas. “At the same time, we’re seeing a push for abstinence-until-marriage programs — that’s if you have a sex education program.”Even state officials admit that “It’s entirely feasible…that a Texas student could graduate from high school without being taught about birth control options.”And now these young women.Something needs to change. An op-ed in The Houston Chronicle called for comprehensive sex education, noting of the teenager who gave birth in her school’s bathroom that “adults in her state pretended that ‘just say no’ was enough to protect her from pregnancy.”It’s time to stop pretending and instead give students the information they need to make good decisions.

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