Per the rules of the Texas legislature's special session, Governor Rick Perry can add any agenda items that he thinks need to be addressed, with abortion taking a pretty comfortable lead over anything else. Otherwise, any bills the legislators file right now are in free-floating purgatory.
In a show of optimism, the Texas Freedom Network today plans to deliver to Perry a petition of 5,000 signatures asking him to add comprehensive sex education to the session. Their approach is to argue that fewer teen pregnancies will mean fewer abortions.
"Given your stated intention of reducing abortion in Texas, you should support policies that give women and teens the information they need to avoid unplanned pregnancies. That means ending the state's promotion of failed abstinence-only sex education and installing policies that ensure teaching about birth control, along with abstinence, in high school sex education classes."
Back in February, TFN polling found that a majority of Texans, including women and Catholics, support providing access to birth control and family-planning material to low-income women. And 84 percent of Texans support teaching about birth control, condoms and abstinence in high school sex-ed classes. That support extends across "political, racial, generational, and geographic lines."
"In a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation, replacing failed abstinence-only policies with more effective sex education makes a lot more sense than pushing divisive abortion legislation just to boost the careers of cynical politicians," said TFN communications director Dan Quinn in a press release.
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Texas is one of five states with rates of more than 50 births per every 1000 teenage women. The Atlantic reports that teen pregnancy rates are higher in states where more people identify as "very religious," and, surprisingly, lower in states with high rates of binge drinking or marijuana use. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 22 percent of teen births in Texas are repeat births, the highest rate in the country.