The sun is shining. The tulips are blooming. Teens are getting pregnant. Spring brings proms, graduations and other end-of-the-school-year activities. It is also the time when teens are most likely to become pregnant.

Many teens say they are concerned about pregnancy, but still think "it can't happen to me." It can, and it does. The no. 1 reason teens give for not using protection is that they were not planning on having sex and it "just happened." That "just happened" leads to nearly 850,000 unintended pregnancies for American teens each year.

Over the past 10 years, teen pregnancies in the United States have declined steadily, proof that efforts to reduce teen pregnancy have made an impact. Reliable studies have found the teen pregnancies were reduced most among teens who had access to contraception and used it consistently and correctly. Yet, in spite of this decrease, the United States still has one of the highest teen-pregnancy rates in the developed world. What are we doing wrong?

One answer is that we are devoting too much money and energy to programs that don't work. Last month, Mathematica Policy Research released a report which found that teens who participated in federally funded abstinence-only programs were just as likely as nonparticipating teens to have sex and that abstinence-only-program participants did not delay first sexual intercourse, reporting the same mean age at first intercourse as their non-participating peers.

Yet the federal government spent $176 million on these programs in 2006. Instead of funneling taxpayer dollars into ineffective programs, we need to start focusing on comprehensive sex-education programs that provide information about both abstinence and contraception.

Teens need access to information on contraception, including abstinence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and healthy relationships -- regardless of whether they are currently sexually active or not. Parents have the crucial role of providing their teens with guidance on their values and expectations. As a community, we should come together to emphasize the importance of a strong partnership between the family and the community in helping teens develop responsible and healthy attitudes regarding sexuality and enhancing the decision-making skills that lead to positive life choices.

We all have the same goals. We want teens to recognize that sex has numerous consequences. We want parents to be able to share their values with their teens, and we want parents to have the tools to have "the talk."

We want teens to be empowered to postpone sexual activity until they can make an informed decision that protects their health and respects their values. We should come together to support programs that work to prevent teen pregnancy and support healthy youth development.

The New York State Senate is currently considering the Healthy Teens Act, legislation which would provide support to comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sexuality education. The Assembly has already passed the Healthy Teens Act, and there is widespread support across our state for real sex ed. Eighty-eight percent of New Yorkers think students should have information about contraception and preventing sexually transmitted infections. According to a 2006 survey conducted by Lake Research Partners, 77 percent of New York voters believe that comprehensive sex education should be taught in our public schools. Belief in real sex education crosses party lines, geographic lines, and religious lines.

Teen mothers are more likely to be single parents and to live in poverty and less likely to complete high school than their non-parenting peers. We can work together to prevent teen pregnancy. Start by talking to your kids about sexuality and by sharing your family's values. Ask Sen. Betty Little to support the Healthy Teens Act. We have a chance to make a real difference in the lives and futures of teens this spring.

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