AB629 (Sexual Health Education Accountability Act)
Good afternoon Madam Chair and committee members:
I am Dr. Norman Constantine, a senior scientist with the Public Health Institute, and clinical professor of community health and human development at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. I am lead author of a series of reports titled “No Time for Complacency: Teen Births in California.” This series includes biannual analyses of costs to taxpayers and society of teen births and sexually transmitted infections among California youth. Our most recently published study analyses parent opinions on sex education policy in different parts of our state.
California is already a national beacon for effective teen pregnancy prevention policy and programs. Since 1991, we have led the nation in reducing our teen birth rate. Yet teen pregnancy is still a significant issue. This year we expect more than 50,000 births to teen girls – that’s 1 out of every 25 California girls, aged 15-19 years giving birth, in just one year. And after more than a decade of declines, the number of teens births in California began to rise again in 2004.
As we found in No Time for Complacency, teen births in California now cost taxpayers more than 1.5 billion dollars each year, while total societal costs reach 3.4 billion annually. We also calculate that newly acquired sexually transmitted infections among California youth each year incur over a billion dollars in medical costs alone.
Despite our progress, we can and must do better. The evidence is compelling that comprehensive, medically accurate sex education is an effective and responsible way of investing state funds. Our recently published statewide survey shows that parents in every region of the state overwhelming support comprehensive sex education. California’s Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV Prevention Education Act was a big step forward. But, because it applies only to schools, more than $25 million annually of state-funded teen pregnancy prevention programs are still not accountable.
AB 629 will close this loophole by setting a minimal baseline of medical accuracy and completeness for these programs, while encouraging local program flexibility to meet their communities’ needs. With two out of every three teens having sexual intercourse before they leave high school, surely we cannot afford to promote ignorance.
On behalf of the Public Health Institute, I respectfully urge you to vote aye on AB 629.