Something good is happening in California.
For a state more accustomed to bad news -- a broke state economy, a slashing of public services, an increase in health premiums by the state's largest health insurer, rising college tuition rates, escalating home foreclosures, crime, etc. -- today's news that the state's Latina teens are having less babies than their counterparts across the country is excellent news.
According to the California Department of Public Health, California's teen birth rate is at a record low. For Latina teens, though they still have the undesirable distinction of having the largest teen pregnancy rate in the state, their numbers have gone down from 62 percent in 2007 to 57 percent in 2008.
Pregnant middle-school students (Source: globalgrind.com)
This decline bucks the national trend of an increase in Latina teen pregnancies in states throughout the Southwest, Southeast and Midwest.
With more Latina teens having multiple births while still unprepared for motherhood, lacking a basic high school education, or a decent paying job and depending on help from cash-strapped family members and straining public services, California's success begs the question, "How?"
It's not so much what they did but what they refused to do.
What they didn't do was believe the hype that an abstinence-only curriculum works for every teen.
California makes sure their students receive "comprehensive sexual health education."
"Comprehensive sexual health education" means education regarding human development and sexuality, including education on pregnancy, family planning, and sexually transmitted diseases ...abstinence-only education is not permitted in California public schools.
Abstinence was so popular back in the day because it was tied to federal dollars and heavily promoted by the former administration but contrary to a recent report that shows it being the cure-all for putting the brakes on teen hormones, one Texas commentator puts the issue in perspective.
The abstinence message is indeed an important part of sexuality education. But as the researchers themselves stated, it is only one part. Most kids will need more than just abstinence education -- because someday, they'll be more than just kids.
Many states throughout the country have continued to take ulta-conservative stands on sexual health education, even while the teens in their states are hooking up and producing offspring.
It's clear that a combined approach in presenting sex education to students -- both abstinence and medically correct contraceptive information -- is the only way to get this issue under control and start turning around a demographic that threatens to be the majority in the population that will drag future economies down because of low skills, low educational achievement levels, the higher likelihood of living in poverty with the highest number of children who will repeat the examples of their parents.
Staving off pregnancy in the teen years is a no-brainer on just what a win-win situation it is for the teenager, her/his family, the economy, etc.
It isn't until legislators quit trying to impose their religious/personal beliefs on a population that will do what has come naturally for thousands of years and hundreds of generations before them that the situation can begin to reverse itself.
We have only to look at California to see the truth.