DFW CBSLocal (Dallas-Fort Worth, TX) (03.19.13)
In 2012, Dallas County had the fourth highest teen birth rate in the nation, and STDs are on the rise among teenagers. Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS), stated that teenagers are inundated with sexually explicit messages, silencing the current abstinence message taught in schools. “The issue is, we’re seeing an increase in the number of teen pregnancies statewide as well as STDs and HIV among the 13–18 age group,” he said. Thompson’s solution is to provide more explicit and detailed sex education as well as distributing condoms in schools, churches, and wherever young people gather.
In strong disagreement with Thompson is Marilyn Morris, president of AIM for Success, a school abstinence program she and her husband founded 20 years ago. She became pregnant as a high school senior, even though her dream was to be a professional tennis player. She married the father of her child, and they have been married for 44 years. Her abstinence beliefs are based on freedom. Morris declares, “It is totally a freedom message. You’re free to go on with your dreams and goals. Go have fun. Enjoy life. But don’t worry about pregnancy. Don’t worry about paying child support. Don’t worry about sexually transmitted diseases. You’re totally free to have an exciting life to avoid this.” She pointed out that providing teens with condoms sends the wrong message. She emphasized that society needs to help young people control their sexual desires instead of giving them permission and added that the abstinence message works; it originated in the early 1990s, and since then, rates for birth and pregnancy and abortion have declined, according to Morris.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, statistics for pregnancy rates across the United States have dropped; however, as a state, Texas still ranks fourth in the nation for teen pregnancies. Dallas County teenage STD rates are also increasing. One quarter of the 5,000 gonorrhea cases and 16,000 chlamydia cases were diagnosed in Texas’s teenagers in 2010. Morris explained that the numbers are higher in states with larger percentages of minority populations. At Tasby Middle School, with a high enrollment of black and Hispanic students, some parents believe condoms should be made available to their children. Thompson wants the Texas legislature to study the matter and consider funding the purchase of condoms for Dallas County schools.