Public Policy and Public Opinion Toward Sex Education and Birth Control for Teenagers


1 Requests for reprints should be sent to Paul A. Reichelt, Department of General Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago, 845 South Damen Avenue, Box 6998, Chicago, 1L 60680.


That government policy toward provision of sex education and contraception for adolescents may be influenced by public opinion is reflected in the fact that recent program formulation appears to follow the conventional wisdom of a general conservative shift among the American public, i.e., recent policy toward adolescent pregnancy is conservative in the sense of being reactive rather than preventive. A cheek on the validity of this conventional wisdom was accomplished by integrating available data on public opinion toward sex education and brth control services for teenagers. These data reveal an upward trend in public approval of such services for adolescents that runs counter to the conventional wisdom. This is because the conventional wisdom is not firmly supported by the available data on American opinions and values which demonstrate that the overall movement in attitudes decisively contradicts the idea of a simple conservative swing. Provision of more and better contraceptive services and sex education to teenagers is an important policy goal that would lower the incidence of adolescent pregnancy and would be supported by the American people.