Texas has long been a haven of GOP-backed abstinence-only sex education, which tells young people to “just say no” until they’re married. It also teaches* them that condoms don’t work, birth control is virtually useless, men prefer helpless women, only sluts have sex, abortion will kill you, and you can get AIDS from tears. In other words, it tries to scare you dry (or limp).
Abstinence-only sex ed obviously has a substantial impact on increasing the unwanted pregnancy rate, but that’s not the whole story. Texas is also one of the most anti-choice states in the country. It’s much more difficult to get birth control as a teenager in rural Texas than as a teen in, say, Seattle. It’s also bigger than just sex ed and health care — teenagers are more likely to wait to have children if you give them a reason to wait. For girls who have fewer educational and employment opportunities, who see first-hand how hard it is to get ahead or become upwardly mobile, who can only get health care when they’re pregnant, who get positive feedback for pregnancy and child-rearing in a way that they don’t for any other achievements, and who haven’t been given other options to aspire for, having a child (or children) can look pretty good. It’s a rational choice.
This illustrates why we need to advocate for reproductive justice, not just reproductive rights. Rights are important. But unless we have a comprehensive and holistic way of addressing the various factors and imbalances in women’s lives, rights won’t be particularly meaningful. Imagine what this could do for Texas:
The Reproductive Justice Framework envisions the complete physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of women and girls. It stipulates that reproductive justice will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives.
Comprehensive sex ed in Texas would be a good start in combating unwanted teen pregnancies. But it can’t be the whole story, and pro-choice advocates can’t loose sight of the big picture.
*I use this term loosely.
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