Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy Nationally

Polis: Center for Politics
4 min readMar 27, 2024

Naggena Ohri (PPS ‘25)

Naggena Ohri (PPS ‘25)

I live on a college campus that is constantly spurring with Planned Parenthood activists. I also live in a state where many residents fear the day that North Carolina will follow suit with other southern states and limits our access to safe and legal abortions. Duke University and North Carolina are not alone in this issue. 24 U.S. states have banned abortion already or are likely to do within the coming months. Given the current social climate surrounding abortion bans, the need for sex education in schools is especially important now.

As a society, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the issue of unplanned pregnancies and the high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young people. The estimated taxpayer savings from preventing all unintended pregnancies alone is $6 million. The lack of sex education in schools leads to high rates of unplanned pregnancies and STIs among teenagers.

Sex education is an essential tool for ensuring that young people have access to the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health. Therefore, it is imperative that comprehensive sex education be required in all public high schools. This includes topics related to human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, and sexual health.

In the United States, about 750,000 teenagers get pregnant every year, and the majority of these pregnancies are unplanned. Many of these teens end up dropping out of high school, facing poverty, and living with the consequences of inadequate education for the rest of their lives. Many schools only offer abstinence-only education. In some cases, this is due to political pressure from conservative groups who oppose sex education on moral or religious grounds. In other cases, schools simply do not have the resources or trained personnel to implement effective sex education programs.

However, the consequences of inadequate sex education are dire. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and the majority of these occur among women under the age of 25. Unplanned pregnancies can have significant negative consequences for young women, including reduced educational and career opportunities, increased financial stress, and higher rates of mental health problems. Young people are also disproportionately affected by STIs, with rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea highest among people aged 15–24.

In addition to reducing rates of unplanned pregnancies and STIs, sex education can have numerous other benefits for young people. Comprehensive sex education can help students develop healthy relationships, improve communication skills, and increase their self-esteem. It can also promote respect for diversity and help reduce stigma and discrimination against marginalized groups such as LGBTQ+ individuals.[7]

Opponents of sex education often argue that it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about sex and sexuality. However, not all parents have the knowledge or skills to provide accurate and comprehensive sex education, and some may have cultural or religious

beliefs that conflict with scientific evidence. In addition, not all students have access to supportive and informed parents or caregivers, and it is the responsibility of schools to ensure that all students have access to high-quality education that prepares them for adult life.

Moreover, many students who lack access to sex education rely on unreliable sources, such as peers, media, and the internet, which can lead to misinformation and confusion. Hence, providing comprehensive sex education in schools is essential to empower students to make informed decisions about their sexual health.

To achieve this, policymakers should prioritize funding and developing evidence-based, comprehensive sex education programs in schools. Additionally, the Biden-Harris Administration should pass the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act, which includes a range of measures, one of which is to end financial support for abstinence-only-untilmarriage programs. Additionally, it seeks to institute five-year grants to support comprehensive sex education programs that meet standards set by experts. These programs should cover various subjects related to sex and sexuality, such as puberty, adolescent development, anatomy, and physiology. They should also address topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, contraception, pregnancy, and reproduction, as well as STIs, including HIV. Healthy relationships and interpersonal violence should also be addressed within the curricula funded through these grants. Congress must eliminate abstinence-only programs and also take steps to stop funding programs that stigmatize sex, ignore or bully LGBTQ children and reinforce harmful gender norms.

Naggena Ohri is from Leonardtown, MD and an Undergraduate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. This piece was submitted as an op-ed in the Spring ‘23 PUBPOL 301 course. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.