Dear Texas

Dear Texas,

Your recent decision to cut off funding for women’s health care puts young and low income women and their families across your vast state in danger. I know that you claim that you are trying to prevent taxpayers from financing abortions, which is a controversial procedure, but cutting off funding for clinics that provide gynecological services and birth control is not the solution. You may not have heard this before, but birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies, which prevents abortions.

I know what you are thinking, Texas, you want to tell me that actually, women not having sex is cheaper and more effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies. Which would be true, except that you can’t make people stop having sex. No matter how many times you tell them that it’s bad. It doesn’t even work on impressionable teenagers. To convince you, I built you a map:

So, I just made this quickly, but as you can see, states are shaded in blue to represent increasing teenage birthrates. Texas, you are near the top, 63.4 out of every 1,000 girls, 15-19, give birth every year, despite your abstinence based sex education curriculum.  On top of the states are blue hashmarks, slanting from lower left to upper right to indicate abstinence education. States without these hashmarks teach sex ed that recommends abstinence but includes discussions of contraception, or have no defined sex ed curriculum at all. The pattern is quite obvious, states with abstinence only hashmarks tend to be much darker blue (higher teen birthrates) then states without.  (On screen, it’s hard to  see the light blue abstinence-only lines on the lower birthrate states, but if you look closely, they are on Utah, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island- I’m not trying to be sneaky)

Secondly, Texas, you’ll notice that some states have diagonal hashmarks heading the other direction, from upper left to lower right.  This indicates states where the median household income falls in the lowest 33%, under $46,000. High teenage birthrates also appear to be associated with lower income states.

Now, I should say that this map does not prove any sort of causation. It does not mean that having a lower median income causes more teenage girls to have babies. It does not mean that abstinence only education causes more teenage girls to have sex without protection. it just shows a relationship in the data. But it’s a pretty strong relationship. Also, the association could go both ways. So, maybe it’s not just that lower income communities tend to have more teenage moms, but also that communities with more teenage mom struggle financially.

Which is really why I wanted to make you this map. I think this decision to cut funding for women’s health and family planning services could end up costing you a lot more than you realize.



Data for the Map:

Sex Education from the Sexuality Information and Education Center of the United States.
Teenage Birthrate Data from the Center for Disease Control,
Median Household Income data from the US Census (I used the 3-year average medians)

1 thought on “Dear Texas

  1. Pingback: Why don’t more girls get the HPV vaccine?? | Xylem

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