Texas Students Push for Contraception Talk in Sex Ed

A Texas Democrat and dozens of students are asking state lawmakers to reconsider a bill that would push the state's public schools to teach about contraception in addition to abstinence.

About 75 high school and college students marched Tuesday to the Texas Capitol to support a legislation introduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) to revamp the state's sex education to teach about the use of contraception in addition to abstinence. Texas law currently mandates that districts that teach sex education must emphasize abstinence.

Castro says his bill is meant to give students other options to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted illnesses, not downplay abstinence.

"We're still making sure that that's (abstinence) the emphasis, but our legislation also has a dose of reality in it," said Castro.

The student marchers on Tuesday say the state's teen pregnancy rate is too high.

Protester Nicole Vargas, 18, of San Antonio told Reuters, "At my high school, when a teenager gets pregnant, it's not that big of a deal, because it's such a common thing."

According to 2009 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas is one of ten states where the rate of teen pregnancy is above 50 percent among youths ages 15 to 19.

Nationally, however, the rate of teen pregnancy has been declining. U.S. figures collected in 2009 and released in December show that there was an average of 39 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15 to 19. The 2009 rate is the lowest on record in 70 years.

The CDC also released a report this month that shows an increase in the practice of abstinence among teens and young adults between the ages of 15 to 24. The number of youths who never had oral, vaginal or anal sex rose from 22 percent to 28 percent.

Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affairs for Liberty Institute, defended the lack of contraception lesions in the state's sex education by contending that such instruction amounts to "giving students a lighter and a cigarette at the front door of the school and telling them not to smoke."

State Representative Rob Eissler, the head of the House Public Education Committee, said Castro's bill is unlikely to pass in these economic times.

Moreover, the bill is also unlikely to gain support with Republicans. A similar bill did not make it out of a House committee last session. This year, the bill could face even more challenges because of the larger number of Republicans in the House.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also has voiced his support for the state's focus on abstinence education. Perry said in a television interview, "I'm just going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works."