"Our analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence indicating that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen pregnancy rates," said Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, in a press release.
Researchers also looked at the influence of socioeconomic status, education level, access to Medicaid waivers and ethnicity of each state's teen population.
"This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior," said David Hall, second author and assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College. "It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries."
Hall said in the release this is the first large-scale evidence that the type of sex education provided in public schools has a significant effect on teen pregnancy rates.
The results from the research -- which covers 48 states -- can be read at www.plosone.org.
Georgia public schools have abstinence-only sexual education programs and research by a collaboration of local and state organizations this year, including the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and the Bartow Collaborative Family Connection, showed a drop in Bartow County's teen pregnancy rate.
Bartow County ranks 51 in teen pregnancy for Georgia's 159 counties, slightly below the state average, but Georgia's teen-pregnancy rate is the 13th highest in the nation.
The teen pregnancy rate has fluctuated over the past 20 years, dropping nearly 50 percent, according to Northwest Georgia Public Health, but health officials don't have a clear answer as to why.
While the BCFC and NWGA Public Health's Teen Pregnancy Task Force provides sexual education programs, Youth Development Coordinator for NWGA Public Health Angie Robinson has said these efforts likely did not cause the decrease, saying she had seen where the rate has fluctuated in areas with abstinence-only education programs.
The teen-pregnancy rate per 1,000 was 70.4 in 1999 in Bartow and decreased to 29.5 in 2009. The total number of teen pregnancies in 2009 was 58.
The arguments against comprehensive sex and STD education vary, but all tend to fall under the same umbrella: many involved parents across the U.S. simply don't want their child to learn about sex at school.
However, many parents are not involved and often the community has to step in to help, most often in the form of charitable organizations to benefit the mental, physical and emotional health of young people.
While it is unfortunate and we could talk all day about the struggles many teens face outside of school, how sad it is they lack parental guidance and how our society is crumbling, bottom line, children are expensive and someone has to pay because they keep on coming. Many educators believe it takes a village to raise a child and, in many cases, the teens without parental guidance are the ones having kids -- at the cost of the village's taxpayers. In the case of Bartow County, about $4.6 million.
The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, otherwise known as G-CAPP is one of seven organizations across the United States to participate in the "Working to Institutionalize Sex Education" initiative, funded by the Grove Foundation, with the goal to build the sexuality and health education infrastructure to implement and institutionalize sex education. Those involved with the initiative have said they want the different facets of the community to know the social, health and financial consequences associated with teen pregnancy and how it inevitably affects everyone, by implementing community-wide opportunities for sexual education.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, only 40 percent of teens who have a child at age 17 or younger graduate high school and only 23 percent of these teens go on to acquire their Graduation Equivalency Degree.
The National Campaign also says daughters of teen mothers are three times as likely to become teen parents themselves than daughters born to older mothers and sons born to young teens see higher incarceration rates.
Teen mothers who have a child at age 17 or younger can expect to make $28,000 less in the 15 years proceeding birth and teen fathers can expect to make $28,000 less in the following 18 years, according to the National Campaign.
As The Simpsons' character Helen Lovejoy cries, "Won't somebody please think of the children?" Stanger-Hall proposes a somewhat less-than-bleeding-heart question, asking involved parents to put the shoe on the other foot: "Advocates for continued abstinence-only education need to ask themselves: If teens don't learn about human reproduction, including safe sexual health practices to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as how to plan their reproductive adult life in school, then when should they learn it and from whom?"