(Vox) In the early 1990s, with panic over the AIDS epidemic rising, hundreds of school districts began making condoms more accessible to students. The hope was to encourage students to practice safe sex and better protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.
A new research paper suggests that decision may have backfired. It finds that access to condoms in school led to a 10 percent increase in teen births. The effects were concentrated in schools that offered condoms with no required counseling. Those schools also saw that gonorrhea rates for women rose following the condom programs.
It's possible that teens did engage in riskier behavior with the condoms available. Or teenage girls might have decided to use the condoms — which have an especially high failure rate — instead of birth control pills, which are more effective at preventing pregnancy. The research paper isn’t able to answer why teen births went up in the areas where schools gave out free condoms. But it does call into question some of the unintentional side effects of making the contraceptive more freely available.
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