Serena joins us from Feminists For Choice:

The second season of MTV’s “Teen Mom” debuted last night. The show features pregnant teens, or young women who have just given birth, and it focuses on their struggles to raise the children while the mothers themselves are still growing into adulthood. The timing of the season premiere could not have been more fortuitous, because an op-ed in today’s Huffington Post seeks to blow the myth of a teen pregnancy epidemic right out of the water.

Choice USA Executive Director Kierra Johnson writes a scathing article, asking pro-choice advocates and policymakers alike to re-examine the way that teen pregnancy is discussed and demonized.

"People in every age bracket have sex, get pregnant, have abortions and have children. Sex and the outcomes of sex are not exclusively experienced by teens. Actually, according to the Guttmacher Institute, teens have a lower rate of sexual activity (46 percent) than other age groups, and teens make up the smallest percentage of pregnancies (seven percent, including 18 and 19-year-olds), abortions (six percent) and births (10 percent). The vast majority of pregnancies, abortions and births occur after the teenage years.

So, if people of all ages are having sex and facing the results, why are teen sex and teen pregnancy the problems?"

Johnson goes onto argue in the article that the US needs to shift its priorities. Instead of getting so hung up on sex, we need to focus on the lack of access to health care and education that keeps individuals locked in poverty. If people have more access to medically accurate sex education, they can make healthy decisions about their bodies. If people have access to birth control and condoms, teen pregnancy isn’t such a risk. And when all Americans have the option to go to college, they are in a better position to support their families, regardless of the age they are when they start their families.

On a conference call to pro-choice bloggers on Tuesday, Johnson brought up the example of The Netherlands, where discussions about sex are not taboo. Condom manufacturers in Holland have even gone so far as to make smaller sizes so that condoms fit teenage penises. Not surprisingly, the Netherlands has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world.

I don’t think it’s enough to attribute Holland’s teen pregnancy rate to the accessibility of condoms, and the permissive sexual attitude that exists in the country. Holland also has its priorities in order – priorities that Johnson herself argues the United States needs to copy. The Netherlands has the highest child welfare rate in the world, according to UNICEF. Everyone in Holland is required to have health insurance, and if families cannot afford to pay for health insurance themselves, it is provided by the government. Education is free in Holland, all the way through college. Is it any wonder, then, that the Netherlands has lower teen pregnancy rates than the US? When children are valued and given the educational tools they need to succeed, they thrive. Compare that to the United States, where children make up the largest percentage of the uninsured, and it’s no surprise to find that the US ranks 20th in the world for child welfare, which is lower than all of the European nations surveyed besides the United Kingdom.

I agree with Johnson. Teen sex and pregnancy is not the problem – American attitudes towards sex in general need to change, and so do our priorities. Let’s start advocating for comprehensive sex education for everyone, not just teens. And let’s start demanding comprehensive health care insurance for all Americans. It’s time to change the terms of the debate and start focusing on things that really matter.

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