Public colleges and universities in Arkansas are starting to unveil their state-mandated plans to prevent unplanned pregnancies, NPR reported.
A powerful video, for example, emerged at Arkansas Tech University, one that every freshman is required to watch. Produced by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, it features men and women who had teenage pregnancies describe the unwanted consequences of having children too young.
“I wanted to be a surgeon,” one young woman on the video explained. “I had so many different plans — I mean, I had my whole life planned out.”
At the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, students received a 4×6 flash card in their dorm rooms that read: “You plan for college. You plan to graduate. Why not plan for parenting?” directing students to campus health services, according to Arkansas Online.
The school also requires a mandatory class for students with fewer than 12 credit hours that includes a unit on pregnancy.
The Arkansas law, passed in 2015, required all public colleges and universities to develop unplanned pregnancy prevention action plans, though it allows individual schools to decide how best to provide such a service. Lawmakers are likely hoping it has an impact for the state which has the highest rate of teen births in the nation, with about a 4% birth rate among girls aged 15 to 19.
While sex education can be controversial at the secondary schooling level, the law mandating that public colleges in Arkansas teach students how to prevent unplanned pregnancies through more than abstinence-only programs came with little pushback.
It may be the sign of a future trend in Bible-Belt states where sex education in earlier years is not as widespread.
In 2014, Mississippi passed a similar law for public colleges and universities.
The push for sex education and prevention is in large part a reflection of the desire to build a more educated work force, Angela Lasiter, a program specialist at the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, told The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“We’ve got to get students to stay in school and finish their degree or certificate or whatever program they’re in, because we want them to be contributing members of society, we want them to be successful, we want the incomes in Arkansas to go up,” Lasiter said.
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