Adolescent Reproductive Health Conference

April 16-17, 2004

Click here to read the conference report >>
Youth Reproductive Health in a Controversial Climate:
Reclaiming Strategies that Work

The Pacific Institute for Women’s Health, UCLA’s Bixby Program in Population and Reproductive Health, and WYSE (Women Supporting Youth and Each Other) co- sponsored the conference, entitled “Youth Reproductive Health in a Controversial Climate: Reclaiming Strategies that Work.” Approximately 150 advocates, researchers, community leaders and young people attended the sessions, held at the University of Southern California on April 16-17.

“There is a big disconnect between public opinion and conservative politics,” declared conference speaker Sharon Camp, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Alan Guttmacher Institute. “U.S. public policy on sexuality education ignores both public opinion and research on ‘what works.'” While 81 percent of parents and sex ed teachers support comprehensive sex ed over abstinence-only programs, 86 percent of federally- funded programs require that abstinence be emphasized. Only 14 percent of federal sex ed funds go to programs that combine abstinence messages with other information, such as contraceptives and condom use to prevent sexually-transmitted infections and HIV.

Presenter Douglas Kirby, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist at ETR Associates and one of the country’s leading investigators of sexual and reproductive health, argued “we cannot yet point to any single abstinence- only program and say it is effective in delaying sex among young people.” Not one evaluation has yet been completed for any federally-funded abstinence- only sex ed program. Bill Smith, Director of Public Policy for SEICUS, declared “science has been attacked, distorted and trumped by the evidence-be-damned attitude of the current Administration.”

In California, critical sexual and reproductive health programs for adolescents are currently on the chopping block in Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget. Programs to reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy, teen pregnancy, and sexually-transmitted infections–such as Community Challenge Grants; Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment (Family PACT); Male Involvement Program; and the Teen SMART Program– all face cuts in the coming months.

Cutting costs today, however, will ultimately cost California taxpayers additional millions down the road. According to Jenny Oropeza, Assemblymember from the 54th District, every dollar spent on publicly subsidized family planning services saves $4.40 on costs that would otherwise be spent on medical care, welfare benefits, and other social services to women- particularly teens-who become pregnant.

Although teen birth rates in California fell 40 percent between 1991 and 2001, the state is in the midst of what experts call a “youth quake.” The number of adolescents aged 10-19 in California is expected to skyrocket 34 percent in the decade from 1995-2005 (compared to an overall U.S. increase of 13 percent). As a result, a new study entitled, “No Time for Complacency: Teen Births in California” projects a reversal of the recent decline in teen births. According to the report, teen births are projected to increase by 21 percent between 2001 and 2006, due to population growth alone. One out of every seven adolescents in the United States now lives in California.

According to Claire Brindis, Dr. P.H., and Director of the Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy at the University of California-San Francisco, California invested $128 million in teen pregnancy prevention education and health services in FY 1998-99. Yet this relatively modest investment had a dramatic impact: taxpayers saved $968 million by averting costs related to teen births, and society saved $2.2 billion by averting related social costs. While the vast majority of parents support publicly funded reproductive health education, potential reductions in prevention education programs-at both the state and federal levels-will likely increase the numbers of teen births.

Click here to read the letter to President Bush drafted by conference participants >>

Organizers of the conference with a keynote speakers (L to R):

Lissette Flores (Bixby), Ana Rodriquez (PIWH), Muadi Mukenge (PIWH), Susana Caceres (WYSE), U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson, Paula Tavrow (Bixby), Innocentia Riker (PIWH), Jacqueline Guzman (PIWH), and Taraneh Salke (Bixby). Missing: Magaly Marques (PIWH).