As a leader in the field of teen pregnancy prevention, Fact Forward is often asked our position on various topics associated with reproductive health. Additional statements will be added as hot topics arise in the media.
Fact Forward believes there is common ground to be found in the conversation about abortion in South Carolina. Decreasing the number of women, especially teens, facing an unintended pregnancy is a universal goal and is the best way to reduce the number of abortions in our state; clearly the most effective way to accomplish this is to invest in primary prevention and prevent teen and unplanned pregnancies. The number of teen pregnancies, and abortions, in our state can be reduced dramatically through the use of science-based, research-proven strategies. Preventing teen pregnancy allows young people to focus on their education, succeed in school, and protect their health. Current and extensive scientific data show that an ongoing investment in teen pregnancy prevention saves the state of South Carolina, on average, $127 million per year, and has led to decreases in the number of abortions. In these tough economic times, we should be spending less time on debates driven by ideology and instead be focused more on proactive solutions to protecting South Carolina’s most valuable resource…young people.
- Comprehensive Health Education Act
It is well documented that helping teens avoid unplanned pregnancy will increase available economic resources while giving South Carolina teens the bright future they deserve. Because teen pregnancy is connected to other societal problems like poverty, education and overall health, prevention efforts have never been more crucial. Since its inception Fact Forward has been dedicated to developing effective, long-term solutions that reduce teen pregnancy in South Carolina. One such strategy is the provision of age appropriate, comprehensive, and medically accurate school based sex education in South Carolina public schools.
Since 1988 South Carolina has had a Comprehensive Health Education Act (CHEA), making it one of only 20 states in the country that mandate the provision of sex education and HIV education. While the CHEA is not perfect legislation, when implemented as written the Act does allow for the implementation of effective, age-appropriate and comprehensive sex education. To this end, Fact Forward believes it is important to focus efforts on two main issues: 1) ensuring adequate enforcement of the existing CHEA across SC’s 86 school districts; and, 2) building the capacity of school leadership and staff to enhance efforts to implement quality sex education in our state’s public schools.
At this juncture Fact Forward does not believe that changing the law – in its entirety – is in the state’s best interest. However, it is also true that decades of polling data conducted by Fact Forward representing the views of South Carolina voters show some specific cases where the general public would like to see schools doing even more when it comes to sex education. In our opinion, legislative efforts should be targeted to update and fine-tune the state’s existing CHEA to ensure the three points below – which are in line with good public health practice and represent the views of SC registered voters.
84% of South Carolinians support sex education that emphasizes abstinence and teaches about contraception. Any change to the existing CHEA should strengthen the existing mandate, AND provide financial support to the SC Department of Education to provide oversight and enforcement. 9 out of 10 South Carolina registered voters think time spent on sex education in public schools should remain the same or increase, and generally speaking feel that instruction should begin in middle school. Any change to the existing CHEA should emphasize an increased time requirement and target grade level. 93% of South Carolinians agree that health education teachers should be certified. Any change to the CHEA should define what certification / training is required, identify agencies to provide such training and allocate funding so that this process isn’t burdensome to school districts.
- Science Based Approaches
Changing human behavior is an incredibly difficult and personal task. It is also an undertaking that requires information, planning and support. Agencies that promote healthy adolescent sexual behavior must be equipped to thoughtfully and intentionally assist young people with making good sexual decisions and, in many cases, change unhealthy behaviors. The approaches these agencies take should be based on what research indicates as the best way to achieve healthy behavior change.
Science Based Approaches are also referred to as evidence based approaches, research proven approaches and SBA for short. While there are a variety of definitions of science based approaches, Fact Forward defines a science based approach as a systematic, comprehensive, theory-based method for designing, implementing, evaluating and institutionalizing programs. The Fact Forward believes when programs use science based approaches they have a greater likelihood of achieving positive outcomes.
Science based approaches include the following competencies and action steps:
Targeting of priority populations at greatest risk of HIV/STD and teen pregnancy (HIV/TP). In order to do so effectively, one must undergo a systematic collection of data on the needs and assets of the community. Identification of the social and behavioral causes of adolescent HIV/TP including the creation of programmatic goals and objectives based on the needs and assets of the community and the youth being served. Focus on the risk and protective factors (determinants) influencing youth behavior while reflecting community resources, values and norms. All of this information can be summarized and clearly displayed in a BDI Logic Model. Development of a program plan identifying research proven programs that fit the youth and community being served while taking into account the capacity of the organization. Implementation of a research proven program with fidelity - as indicated, with only slight modifications or additions to respect the culture and environment of the youth being served. An evaluation plan to assess the quality of the program being implemented and if the program achieved its desired outcomes. Utilization of evaluation data to build community support for HIV/TP prevention and to continually improve and sustain successful programs.
- Sex Education for Elementary Youth
Fact Forward acknowledges that sexuality and its expression are innate characteristics and should encompass physical, social, psychological and spiritual domains. Fact Forward further acknowledges that the process by which young people acquire information and form attitudes and beliefs about sex, relationships and intimacy as well as develop skills to make informed choices about their behavior should be lifelong, age-appropriate and comprehensive. Fact Forward is committed to supporting the use of innovative teen pregnancy and HIV/STD programs and services that are based in rigorous research and grounded by science; however, it acknowledges that there is currently not a proven effective approach to teen pregnancy and HIV/STD prevention for young children. A topic that continually surfaces during regular assessments of professionals working with youth is the need for guidance when providing sexuality education for and responding to questions from elementary aged youth. This issue is important not only for health professionals but for any caring adult in whose life there is a young child. Fact Forward acknowledges that while elementary youth may not need explicit instruction on reproductive health, there is a responsibility to help them understand, in an age-appropriate fashion, their own bodies and how they relate to others.
Fact Forward supports:
- Parents as the primary sexuality educators of their children;
- The right of all young people to receive age and developmentally appropriate comprehensive health and sexuality education;
- The American School Health Association stance on comprehensive sexuality education recommending “sexuality education exist within a coordinated school health program to demonstrate the interrelationship of health behaviors and to provide a planned, sequential pre-kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum”;
- Adherence to the South Carolina Comprehensive Health Education Act (when sexuality education is delivered in a school setting) which maintains that elementary youth should be taught growth and development and reproductive health can be taught at the discretion of the local school board;
- Continued research and development of proven-effective approaches to nurture and maintain healthy, safe, and evolving expressions of sexuality throughout the lifetime.
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